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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of Peadar O’Donnell, Irish Republican & Socialist Activist

Peadar O’Donnell, Irish republican, socialist activist, politician, writer and one of the foremost radicals of 20th-century Ireland, dies in Dublin on May 13, 1986.

O’Donnell is born on February 22, 1893, in Meenmore, near Dungloe, County Donegal, youngest among six sons and three daughters of Biddy and James O’Donnell. He is greatly influenced by his upbringing in the Rosses, in northwest Donegal, one of the poorest and most remote parts of Ireland. His father, a popular local fiddler, earns a living through his smallholding, seasonal labouring in Scotland, and winter work in a local corn mill. His mother, who comes from a radical labour and nationalist political background, works in a local cooperative store. He attends Rampart national school and Roshine national school, near Burtonport, where he is a monitor for four years. In 1911 he wins a scholarship to attend St. Patrick’s College in Drumcondra, Dublin, and returns in 1913 to the Rosses, where he spends two years teaching on the islands of Inishfree. In 1915 he is appointed head of Derryhenny national school, near Dungloe, and the following year becomes principal of a national school on the island of Arranmore, where he begins to write.

O’Donnell had long been concerned by the poor conditions of the local ‘tatie-hokers’ (potato pickers) who migrate annually to Scotland. In the summer of 1918, he travels there to help organise the Scottish Farm Servants’ Union. While there he is influenced by left-wing radicals such as Willie Gallacher, later a communist Member of Parliament (MP), and Emanuel ‘Manny’ Shinwell, later Baron Shinwell. In September 1918, against a background of rising labour militancy, he leaves teaching to become a full-time organiser for the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) in the west Ulster area. The following year he organises one of Ireland’s first “soviets” when the attendants and nurses of the Monaghan District Lunatic Asylum occupy the grounds and appoint O’Donnell as governor until their demands are met.

In early 1919 O’Donnell joins the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Monaghan, resigning from the ITGWU for full-time IRA service in late 1920. He leads the 2nd Battalion, Donegal IRA, from the summer of 1920. In December 1920 he goes “on the run” and leads a flying column in west Donegal until May 1921, when he is wounded. Regarded as insubordinate and militarily inexperienced, he is unpopular among the other senior officers of the 1st Northern Division. He, in turn, is disappointed by the lack of social radicalism among the nationalist leadership. He opposes the Anglo-Irish Treaty, is placed in command of the minority anti-treaty 1st Northern Division, and is a member of the IRA executive that occupies the Four Courts in Dublin in defiance of the provisional government.

Arrested in June 1922, O’Donnell shares a prison cell with Liam Mellows and influences his radical “Notes from Mountjoy,” an important document for subsequent left-wing republicans. He spends the next two years in various prisons and internment camps. His execution is widely expected to follow those of December 8, 1922. In August 1923, he is elected as a Sinn Féin Teachta Dála (TD) for Donegal in the general election called after the end of the Irish Civil War. He goes on hunger strike for forty-one days in late 1923 and succeeds in escaping from the Curragh in March 1924. In June 1924, while on the run, he marries Lile O’Donel, a wealthy Cumann na mBan activist who had smuggled communications for republican prisoners. O’Donel, a radical and member of the Communist Party, is the daughter of Ignatius O’Donel, a prominent landowner from Mayo. They have no children but raise their nephew, Peadar Joe, as their own son after the death in New York of O’Donnell’s brother Joe.

O’Donnell begins writing seriously while in jail and remains a prolific writer, journalist, and editor until the 1960s. His first novel, Storm, set in the Irish War of Independence, is published in 1925. One of his most highly regarded books, Islanders, is published in 1928. Adrigoole, like Islanders a story of poverty and starvation in rural Ireland, is published the following year. The Knife (1930) and On the Edge of the Stream (1934) soon follow. The most significant of his later novels is probably The Big Windows (1954). Foremost among his qualities as a writer is his empathy for the people, life, and landscape of rural Ireland. But his novels have been criticised for their slow pace, excessive detail, and didactic nature. He claims his writing is incidental to his political activism. His trilogy of autobiographical non-fiction, The Gates flew Open (1932), Salud! An Irishman in Spain (1936), and There Will Be Another Day (1963), which respectively concern the Irish Civil War, his activism during the Spanish Civil War, and his role in the land annuities agitation, remain highly regarded. His other important literary achievement is with The Bell, an innovative literary and political magazine which plays a useful dissenting role in an insular and conservative period. He founds The Bell with the writer Seán Ó Faoláin in 1940 and edits it from 1946 until it ceases publication in 1954.

O’Donnell exercises an influential role in the interwar IRA, particularly through his editorship of An Phoblacht (1926–29), which he attempts to divert from militarism to socialist agitation. His ultimate aim is for a thirty-two-county socialist republic. His most successful campaign is organising small farmers against the payment of land annuities to the government in the late 1920s and early 1930s. This campaign is later adopted by Fianna Fáil and contributes to their electoral success in 1932. He is less successful in radicalising the IRA. After the failure of Saor Éire, a left-wing IRA front which provokes clerical and popular hostility against the IRA, increasing tensions between the IRA’s left-wing and the leadership lead O’Donnell, along with Frank Ryan and George Gilmore, to split from the IRA to establish the short-lived Republican Congress in 1934.

Although O’Donnell claims he was never a Communist Party member, he plays a central role in forging links between republicans and the revolutionary left both in Ireland and internationally, and invariably supports the communist party line at critical junctures. After the failure of Republican Congress, he takes up the cause of the Spanish republic. His championing of unpopular causes such as communism and Spain entail a good deal of frustration. He is physically attacked at political meetings and in 1932, despite having never visited the Soviet Union, loses a high-profile libel action against the Dominican Irish Rosary, which claim he had studied in Moscow‘s Lenin College. He is banned from entering the United States for several decades, although he maintains: “My relations with all the great powers continue to be friendly.”

O’Donnell continues to support radical campaigns until his death. He is an outspoken advocate of Irish emigrants. He is prominent in the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and serves as its president in the early 1960s. He is a leading protester against the Vietnam War and a supporter of African anti-colonial movements such as that against apartheid. In later years he is involved in the “Save the west” campaign, highlighting the problems of the west of Ireland.

After several months of ill-health following a heart attack, O’Donnell dies in Dublin, aged 93, on May 13, 1986. He leaves instructions that there are to be “no priests, no politicians and no pomp” at his funeral, and those wishes are granted. He is cremated in Glasnevin Cemetery and his ashes are buried at his wife’s home in Swinford, County Mayo. Although he once remarked that every cause he fought for was a failure, he is now regarded as one of the most influential socialist republican theorists and an important voice of dissent in twentieth-century Ireland.

(From: “O’Donnell, Peadar” by Fearghal McGarry, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)


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Birth of Harry Boland, Politician & President of the Irish Republican Brotherhood

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.


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Birth of Andrew Cooney, Irish Republican & Medical Doctor

Andrew Cooney, Irish republican and medical doctor, is born on April 22, 1897 in Ballyphillip, Nenagh, County Tipperary.

Cooney is the second of three children of John Cooney and Mary Ann Cooney (née Gleeson), middling farmers. While his grandfather, Patrick Cooney, from nearby Garrykennedy, is reputed to have been a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and an Irish National Land League activist, his father does not have any inclination towards radical politics. He is educated at Lissenhall national school and St. Joseph’s CBS, Nenagh. In October 1916, he commences studies in medicine at University College Dublin (UCD) just as the Irish War of Independence is getting underway. He plays briefly with the College’s hurling club.

In 1917, Cooney joins the Third Battalion of the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). A year later he is jailed for two months in Mountjoy Prison and Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, for illegal drilling. Joining the IRB at the end of 1918, he assists in the December 1918 election by protecting candidates and acts as a guard at sittings of the First Dáil. On June 26, 1920 he plays a major role in the attack on Borrisokane Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks. He takes part in the Bloody Sunday operations of November 21, 1920, at 28 Upper Pembroke Street where a number of British agents are killed, and attends Croke Park afterwards. He then goes on the run as a full-time Volunteer and serves with the Dublin Brigade active service unit (ASU).

After the Anglo-Irish truce of July 1921, Cooney is appointed Officer Commanding (O/C) of the 1st Kerry Brigade, IRA, reorganising it and forming a flying column. Opposing the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, he does not immediately break with GHQ, who sends him to organise the 1st Eastern Division. Later in January 1922, the Chief of Staff, Eoin O’Duffy, asks him to become O/C of the 3rd Eastern Division, but later rescinds the appointment. In March 1922 he is appointed O/C of the 1st Eastern Division of the anti-Treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War.

That same year he is captured by Free State forces and interned in Mountjoy Prison, where he becomes O/C of the prisoners in C Wing. He accepts responsibility for an attempted escape bid on October 10, 1922, in which a fellow prisoner, Peadar Breslin, is killed and another man is wounded. After sojourns in Newbridge and Arbour Hill Prison, he is moved with the other leaders to Kilmainham Gaol, where he spends forty-one days on hunger strike. Removed to Harepark Camp, the Curragh, on January 1, 1924, he is among the last to be released on May 29, 1924.

Cooney succeeds Frank Aiken as Chief of Staff of the IRA on November 18, 1925. Central to the reorganisation scheme he puts in place is the need to secure American funds for the IRA and to combat Frank Aiken’s fundraising work in the United States since December 1925 on behalf of the embryo Fianna Fáil organisation. Receiving permission on April 21, 1926, he departs on a fund-raising trip to the United States, but returns to Ireland in October. He resigns as chief of staff in favour of Maurice Twomey, but retains his position as chairman of the IRA executive until November 21, 1927, when he obtains leave to complete his medical studies.

After internship in the Mater Hospital, Dublin, Cooney finds temporary employment in London, but remains in touch with GHQ. On September 27, 1929, he marries the German-educated Frances (‘Frank’) Brady, daughter of a wealthy Belfast linen family and former Cumann na mBan activist and hunger-striker. The marriage is not a success. Failing to secure employment due to police harassment and the loyalty test then in force, he and his wife are obliged to emigrate to London, where he practises as a GP, still maintaining his IRA links. Their only child, Seán, is born there in 1931. He returns to Ireland in August 1932, after Fianna Fáil’s accession to power.

An intimate friend of Maurice Twomey, who is still Chief of Staff, Cooney remains in the upper echelons of the IRA and attends its conventions. Signifying his standing in republican circles, he is chosen to unveil, inter alia, the Fenian memorial in Glasnevin Cemetery and the Seán Treacy plaque in Talbot Street, Dublin, and is a regular speaker at commemorations. In March 1940, he attempts to intercede with Éamon de Valera on behalf of hunger-striking republicans, and is later arrested, but released.

After the discovery of a German spy ring in the hospitals commission’s subsidiary, the Dublin Hospitals Bureau, Cooney is forced to resign in April 1942 on refusing to take a loyalty pledge to the state. He returns to private practice. He becomes active in the unsuccessful campaign to save Charlie Kerins, Chief of Staff, from being hanged in 1944. In anticipation of emigrating, he finally resigns from the IRA in 1944, though military and police surveillance continue until March 1945.

In August 1945, Cooney joins the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, working with displaced persons in the American zone in Germany, and gains rapid promotion. After joining the International Refugee Organisation (UNRRA’s successor) on July 1, 1947, he becomes the chief medical officer of an area including the American sector of Berlin and containing 150,000 displaced persons. He later holds a similar post in Bavaria.

Appointed a part-time member of the hospitals commission by the inter-party government in September 1949 and in severe financial straits, Cooney emigrates alone to the United States on December 2, 1950, and never returns. While employed in a tuberculosis sanatorium in New Jersey, he obtains by examination his licence to practise medicine in Maryland on January 14, 1954. Admitted a member of the American College of Chest Physicians, again by examination, on November 23, 1954, he secures, at the age of 57, his first ever permanent post in medicine, in a similar hospital in Pikesville, Maryland. His republican activities continue through Clan na Gael during his U.S. years, and he is a frequent speaker at commemorative events.

Cooney suffers a stroke in December 1961 that confines him to a wheelchair. He dies at the age of 71 on August 4, 1968, at Carroll County General Hospital, Carroll County, Maryland. He is buried in Youghalarra, Nenagh, County Tipperary.

(Pictured: Liam Lynch with some of his Divisional Staff and Officers of the Brigades, including the 1st Southern Division, who attend as delegates to the Army Convention at the Mansion House, Dublin, on April 9, 1922. Cooney is first on the right in the 3rd row back.)


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Birth of Seán Hales, Political Activist & Member of Dáil Éireann

Seán Hales, Irish political activist and member of Dáil Éireann from May 1921 to December 1922, is born in Ballinadee, Bandon, County Cork, on March 30, 1880.

Hales is born John Hales, eldest child of five sons and four daughters of Robert Hales, a farmer, and Margaret (née Fitzgerald) Hales. He is educated at Ballinadee national school and Warner’s Lane school, Bandon. After leaving school he goes to work on his father’s farm. He plays hurling with Valley Rovers GAA club and is the Munster champion in the 56-lb. weight-throwing competition. From an early age he follows in his father’s footsteps and becomes involved in the republican movement.

Hales joins the Irish Volunteers in 1915 and becomes captain of the Ballinadee company in 1916. Arrested under the Defence of the Realm Act after the 1916 Easter Rising, he is imprisoned in Frongoch internment camp in Wales. After his release, in April 1917 he becomes executive of the short-lived Liberty League promoted by Count George Plunkett. When the League merges with Sinn Féin, he helps reorganise the Volunteers. With his brothers, Tom, William, and Donal, he continues his father’s fight on behalf of evicted tenants and becomes involved with the anti-British Bandon People’s Food Committee and the anti-landlord Unpurchased Tenants’ Association. He helps in the Sinn Féin takeover of The Southern Star newspaper and is a member of the new board of directors. In 1919 he becomes battalion commander of the first (Bandon) battalion 3rd Cork Brigade of the Irish Republican Army, the name by which the Irish Volunteers increasingly became known. He leads the attack on Timoleague Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks in February 1920, and the ambush of an Essex Regiment patrol at Brinny in August 1920. The military patrol at Brinny manages to surprise the ambushers and Lieutenant Tim Fitzgerald of Bandon is the first Volunteer to be killed in action in west Cork. Hales then commands the assault on two truckloads of British troops at Newcestown Cross in which a British officer is killed and several soldiers are wounded.

Hales is appointed section commander of the west Cork flying column in 1920 and takes part in the major action at Crossbarry on March 19, 1921. In retaliation for the burning of the Hales home in March 1921, he leads a contingent of Volunteers and burns Castle Bernard, the residence of the Earl of Bandon. The occupant, Lord Bandon, is held hostage until General Strickland, the British OC in Cork, guarantees he will not execute Volunteers in Cork prison. The British authorities yield and there is an end to the policy of executing prisoners of war in the Cork area.

At the 1921 Irish elections, Hales is elected to the Second Dáil as a Sinn Féin member for the Cork Mid, North, South, South East and West constituency.

At the 1922 Irish general election, Hales is elected to the Third Dáil as a pro-Treaty Sinn Féin Teachta Dála (TD) for the same constituency. He receives 4,374 first preference votes (7.9%). Shortly afterward, the Irish Civil War breaks out between the pro-Treaty faction, who are in favour of setting up the Irish Free State and the anti-Treaty faction, who would not accept the abolition of the Irish Republic.

On December 7, 1922, Hales is killed by anti-Treaty IRA men as he leaves the Dáil. Another TD, Pádraic Ó Máille, is also shot and badly wounded in the incident. His killing is in reprisal for the Free State’s execution of anti-treaty prisoners. In revenge for Hales’ killing, four republican leaders, Joe McKelvey, Rory O’Connor, Liam Mellows and Richard Barrett, are executed the following day, December 8, 1922.

Hales is given a military funeral to the family burial place at St. Patrick’s cemetery, Bandon.

According to information passed on to playwright Ulick O’Connor, an anti-Treaty IRA volunteer named Owen Donnelly of Glasnevin is responsible for the killing of Hales. Seán Caffrey, an anti-treaty intelligence officer told O’Connor that Donnelly had not been ordered to kill Hales specifically but was following the general order issued by Liam Lynch to shoot all deputies and senators they could who had voted for the Public Safety Act (September 28, 1922) which established military courts with the power to impose the death penalty.

A commemorative statue of Hayes is unveiled at Bank Place in Bandon in 1930.


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Formal Establishment of the Irish Republican Brotherhood

James Stephens formally establishes the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in Peter Lanigan’s timber yard, Lombard Street, Dublin, on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1858. It is originally named the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood, but soon comes to be known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood. At the same time, John O’Mahoney is founding the American branch of the revolutionary group. O’Mahoney gives the organization the better-known name Fenians, in honor of the Fianna, the soldiers led by Fionn mac Cumhaill, the heroic warrior of Irish legend.

The IRB is a small, secret, revolutionary body whose sole object is to “establish and maintain a free and independent Republican Government in Ireland.” Stephens is a Young Irelander and is a lieutenant to William Smith O’Brien at the Battle of Widow McCormack’s Cabbage Patch in Ballingary, County Tipperary, in August 1848. He is wounded three times and is smuggled onto a ship to England and then to France, where he spends the next eight years. Upon his return to Dublin in 1856, he determines to organise a revolutionary movement and that leads to the founding of the IRB.

The IRB becomes known as the Fenian movement in the 1850s and 1860s and is committed to the use of force to establish an independent Irish republic. After organising an abortive rising in March 1867, it suffers deep internal divisions over its leadership and strategy in both the United States and Ireland—whether it is best to strike at England, in Ireland or in Canada. The issue is resolved after a series of failed interventions in Canada in 1866, 1867 and 1871, and after bombings in England that do not lead Ireland closer to independence. The IRB is unable to exploit the weaknesses and divisions in the constitutional movement following Charles Stewart Parnell’s divorce scandal (1890–91).

The IRB is eventually rejuvenated in Ireland about 1907, led by Bulmer Hobson and Tom Clarke, thus preparing the way for all that follows.The governing body is the Supreme Council. Before 1916 this consists of eleven members, and after the 1917 reorganisation it contains fifteen members. When not in session, all powers of the Supreme Council, except for declaring war, devolve onto an executive of three: the president, secretary and treasurer.

The constitution provides for the establishment of a military council, subordinate to the Supreme Council. The seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic constitute the entire military council at the time. The constitution is dedicated to the use of force against England at any favourable opportunity, but this is to be a democratic decision: “The IRB shall await the decision of the Irish Nation as expressed by a majority of the Irish people as to the fit hour of inaugurating a war against England and shall, pending such an emergency, lend its support to every movement calculated to advance the cause of Irish independence, consistent with the preservation of its own integrity,” a clause adopted in 1873 in response to the controversies arising from the 1867 Fenian Rising.

The IRB plans the 1916 Easter Rising but the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army make it possible. The establishment of the Irish Volunteers gives the IRB the great opportunity to train and equip its members as a military body for the purpose of securing independence for Ireland by force of arms and securing the cooperation of all Irish military bodies in the accomplishment of its objectives. Numerically the IRB probably never exceeds 2,000 members, but they are all extremely loyal and well trained, and there is very tight security. The executions of 1916 just about wipe out the Supreme Council, and after the prisoners are released, the IRB has to reconstitute itself.

Following the Easter Rising some republicans—notably Éamon de Valera and Cathal Brugha—leave the organization, which they view as no longer necessary, since the Irish Volunteers now perform its function. The IRB, during the Irish War of Independence (1919-21), is under the control of Michael Collins, who is secretary, and subsequently president, of the Supreme Council. Volunteers such as Séumas Robinson say afterwards that the IRB by then is “moribund where not already dead,” but there is evidence that it is an important force during the war.

When the Anglo-Irish Treaty is signed on December 6, 1921, it is debated by the Supreme Council, which votes to accept it by eleven votes to four. Those on the Supreme Council who oppose the Treaty include former leader Harry Boland, Austin Stack and Liam Lynch. Anti-Treaty republicans like Ernie O’Malley, who fought during the Irish Civil War against the Treaty, sees the IRB as being used to undermine the Irish Republic. The IRB becomes quiescent during the Irish Civil War, which ends in May 1923, but it emerges again later that year as a faction within the National Army that supports Minister for Defence Richard Mulcahy against the “Old IRA,” which fought against the recruitment of ex-British Army personnel and the demobilization of old IRA men. This comes to a head with the Irish Army Mutiny of 1924, in the wake of which Mulcahy resigns and other IRB members of the army are dismissed by acting President of the Executive Council Kevin O’Higgins. The IRB subsequently dissolves itself, although it is not known whether a formal decision is taken, or it simply ceases to function.


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Death of Diarmuid O’Hegarty, Civil Servant & Revolutionary

Diarmuid O’Hegarty (Irish: Ó hÉigeartuigh), civil servant and revolutionary, dies in Dublin on March 14, 1958.

O’Hegarty is born Jeremiah Stephen Hegarty on December 26, 1892, in Lowertown, Skibbereen, County Cork, the eldest of seven children of Jeremiah Hegarty (1856–1934) and his wife Eileen (née Barry), both teachers. He is educated at the Christian Brothers school, St. Patrick’s Place, Cork, joins the Dublin civil service in 1910 and is posted to the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, acquiring invaluable administrative experience as private secretary to T. P. Gill, secretary of the department.

O’Hegarty is a member of the Keating branch of the Gaelic League and the closely associated Teeling circle of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). In 1913 he becomes secretary and stage manager of a troupe of Gaelic players, Na hAisteoirí, which includes several who later become prominent revolutionaries: Piaras Béaslaí, Gearóid O’Sullivan, Fionán Lynch, and Con Collins. As second lieutenant of F Company, 1st Battalion, Dublin Brigade, Irish Volunteers, during the Easter Rising, he is in charge of barricades in Church Street, Mary Lane, Mary’s Abbey, and Jameson Distillery, an area which sees fierce fighting. Imprisoned in Knutsford (May 1-18), he is released in error and returns to his post in the civil service. On his return he is a key figure in the reorganisation of the Volunteers and IRB, becoming a member of the executive of the IRB’s supreme council along with Michael Collins and Seán Ó Murthuile. He also becomes a central figure in Kathleen Clarke‘s prisoner support group, the Irish Volunteer Dependents Fund, and when it amalgamates with the more moderate Irish National Aid Association to form the INA&VDF in August 1916, he helps to ensure that it is dominated by republicans.

O’Hegarty is very close to Michael Collins and Harry Boland and in 1918 this IRB triumvirate exercises considerable control in the nomination of Sinn Féin candidates for the 1918 Irish general election. In the same year he is dismissed from the civil service for refusing to take the oath of allegiance, but his administrative talents find ample outlet in the secretariat of the revolutionary Dáil and later in the service of the Irish Free State to such an extent that he has been called ‘the civil servant of the revolution’ and ‘the Grey Eminence of the Free State Government.’ As clerk of the First Dáil and secretary to the Dáil cabinet (1919–21), he is largely responsible for its success, organising meetings of the clandestine parliament and coordinating the work of various departments from his offices on the corner of O’Connell Street and Abbey Street and later in Middle Abbey Street. He is determined that the Dáil will demonstrate its worth by ‘functioning as any progressive government would be expected to function.’ He records the minutes and handles all correspondence of the Dáil cabinet. As the conduit through which the Dáil’s ministers communicate, his role is central to the effective operation of government on the run. The influence this gives him within the revolutionary movement is bolstered by his senior role within the IRB and the positions of military significance which he occupies. He is a member of the Volunteer Executive (Jun 1916–Nov 1921), Irish Republican Army (IRA) Director of Communications (Jul 1918–Mar 1920), and Director of Organisation (Mar 1920–Apr 1921). When convicted of illegal assembly and jailed in Mountjoy Prison (Nov 1919–Feb 1920), he immediately wields power within the prison, ordering Noel Lemass off a hunger strike.

O’Hegarty resigns his military duties in April 1921 to concentrate on his work in the Dáil secretariat and serves as secretary to the Irish delegation during the Anglo–Irish Treaty negotiations in London (Oct–Dec 1921). He is a vital voice for the Treaty within the IRB and is appointed secretary to the cabinet of the Provisional Government in 1922, participating in the unsuccessful army unification talks of May 1922. During the Irish Civil War, he is briefly seconded from his civil service post to serve as military governor of Mountjoy Prison (Jul-Aug 1922), where he threatens that prisoners who persist in leaning out of windows and talking to the public outside the prison will be shot. Peadar O’Donnell, who is a prisoner there at the time, remembers him as the focus of much “republican bitterness.” A member of the army council during the Irish Civil War, he serves as Director of Organisation (Jul–Dec 1922) and Director of Intelligence (Dec 1922–May 1923), leaving the army with the rank of lieutenant general on May 1, 1923, to resume his civil service career.

O’Hegarty is secretary to the Executive Council of the Irish Free State (1923–32) and principal private secretary to its president, W. T. Cosgrave. Again, he records the cabinet minutes and is the administrative pivot upon which government turns. He serves as secretary to numerous governmental delegations and is widely praised for his work in this role at the 1926 Imperial Conference and the 1930 Imperial Conference. In 1927 he goes to New York to represent the government at a hearing into the fate of republican funds in the United States. His career is the prime example of the influence of revolutionary veterans within the higher civil service in the early years of the state. After the change of government following the 1932 Irish general election, he is one of the very few senior civil servants who is effectively removed from his position. He is appointed to be a commissioner of public works, becoming chairman in 1949, a position he holds until his retirement in 1957. In 1939–40 he serves on the Economy Committee established by the government to advise on wartime spending, and in 1941 is a member of a tribunal of inquiry into public transport, which is principally concerned with the poor financial state of Great Southern Railways.

On April 27, 1922, with Michael Collins as his best man, O’Hegarty marries Claire Archer, daughter of Edward Archer, a post office telegraph inspector from Dublin, and Susan Archer (née Matthews). Her brother is William (Liam) Archer. They live at 9 Brendan Road, Donnybrook, Dublin.

O’Hegarty dies on March 14, 1958 in Dublin, leaving an estate of £5,441. His papers are in the University College Dublin (UCD) Archives.


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Death of Frank O’Connor, Poet & Novelist

Frank O’Connor, Irish writer of over 150 works and best known for his short stories and memoirs, dies of a heart attack in Dublin on March 10, 1966. The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award is named in his honour.

O’Connor is born Michael Francis O’Donovan in Cork, County Cork, on September 17, 1903. The only child of Minnie (née O’Connor) and Michael O’Donovan, he attends Saint Patrick’s School on Gardiner’s Hill and North Monastery CBS. His early life is marked by his father’s alcoholism, debt, and ill-treatment of his mother. His childhood is shaped in part by his mother, who supplies much of the family’s income by cleaning houses, because his father is unable to keep steady employment due to his drunkenness. He adores his mother and is bitterly resentful of his father. In his memoirs, he recalls his childhood as “those terrible years,” and admits that he has never been able to forgive his father for his abuse of himself and his mother. When his mother is seventy, O’Connor is horrified to learn from his own doctor that she has suffered for years from chronic appendicitis, which she has endured with great stoicism, as she has never had the time nor the money to see a doctor.

In 1918 O’Connor joins the First Brigade of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and serves in combat during the Irish War of Independence. He opposes the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and joins the Anti-Treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War, working in a small propaganda unit in Cork city. He is one of twelve thousand Anti-Treaty combatants who are interned by the government of the new Irish Free State. Between 1922 and 1923 he is imprisoned in Cork City Gaol and in Gormanston, County Meath.

Following his release, O’Connor takes various positions including that of teacher of the Irish language, theatre director, and librarian. He begins to move in literary circles and is befriended by George William Russell (Æ), through whom he comes to know most of the well-known Irish writers of the day, including William Butler Yeats, Lennox Robinson, F. R. Higgins and Lady Gregory. In his memoirs, he pays tribute to both Yeats and Russell for the help and encouragement they gave him.

In 1935, O’Connor becomes a member of the board of directors of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, founded by Yeats and other members of the Irish National Theatre Society. In 1937, he becomes managing director of the Abbey. Following Yeats’s death in 1939, O’Connor’s long-standing conflict with other board members comes to a head and he leaves the Abbey later that year. In 1950, he accepts invitations to teach in the United States, where many of his short stories have been published in The New Yorker and have won great acclaim. He spends much of the 1950s in the United States, although it is always his intention to return eventually to Ireland.

From the 1930s to the 1960s O’Connor is a prolific writer of short stories, poems, plays, and novellas. His work as an Irish teacher complements his plethora of translations into English of Irish poetry, including his initially banned translation of Brian Merriman‘s Cúirt an Mheán Oíche (The Midnight Court). Many of his writings are based on his own life experiences – notably his well-known The Man of the House in which he reveals childhood details concerning his early life in County Cork. The Sullivan family in this short story, like his own boyhood family, is lacking a proper father figure.

O’Connor’s early years are recounted in An Only Child, a memoir published in 1961 which has the immediacy of a precocious diary. He continues his autobiography through his time with the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in his book My Father’s Son, which is published posthumously in 1968. It contains valuable character sketches of many of the leading Irish literary figures of the 1930s, in particular Yeats and Æ.

Frank O’Connor has a stroke while teaching at Stanford University in 1961, and he later dies from a heart attack in Dublin on March 10, 1966. He is buried in Deans Grange Cemetery two days later.


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The Execution of IRA Member George Plant

George Plant, member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), is executed by the Irish Government on March 5, 1942.

Plant is born into a Church of Ireland farming family in Fethard, County Tipperary, on January 5, 1904, the second eldest child and son in a family of six children. His parents are John William Albert Plant, a farmer, and Catherine Hayden.

One Sunday in 1916, George and his older brother Jimmy are arrested by the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) after being seen speaking to two well-known republicans, Seán Hayes and Dan Breen. In custody the two brothers are beaten and mistreated resulting in a hatred of the RIC. He serves with the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence and with the Anti-Treaty IRA in the Irish Civil War.

In 1923, George and Jimmy leave Ireland for Canada and the United States but continue as active IRA members. In 1929 they return to Ireland and carry out a bank raid in Tipperary on behalf of the IRA. They are arrested two days later at the family farm and subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison. They are released in a general amnesty after the Fianna Fáil and Éamon de Valera election victory in 1932. He is a strong supporter of Seán Russell. In 1939 following the outbreak of World War II, known in Ireland as The Emergency, de Valera is determined to maintain Irish neutrality and is not going to allow the IRA to jeopardize this. The IRA links with Germany and campaign in Britain are severely straining Anglo-Irish relations so emergency legislation is introduced.

Russell, the IRA Chief of Staff, dies in August 1940 after taking ill on board a U-boat and Stephen Hayes from County Wexford becomes IRA Chief of Staff. In late August 1940 an address on Lansdowne Road, Dublin, is raided by the Garda Síochána. Among the men arrested is Michael Devereux, a 24-year-old married truck driver from County Wexford who is also Quartermaster of the IRAs Wexford Brigade. He is released after three days without charge. Shortly afterwards Gardaí in County Wexford find an IRA arms dump. Many in the IRA suspect that Devereux had turned informer, so Stephen Hayes orders Devereux’s execution. George Plant and another man, Michael Walsh from County Kilkenny, are ordered to carry out the order. Devereux meets Plant and Walsh who tell Devereux that Tom Cullimore, the Wexford Brigade’s OC is blamed for the arms dump and that they have shot him. They order Devereux to drive them to an IRA safe house at Grangemockler in south County Tipperary. Devereux, believing he is the prime suspect in a murder, stays willingly at the safe house. A week later, on September 27, 1940, Devereux is invited to go for a walk with Plant and Paddy Davern, the owner of the safe house. Somewhere along the walk Plant accuses Devereux of being an informer and shoots him dead. Plant is arrested nine weeks later on suspicion of IRA membership and brought before the Special Criminal Court in Dublin. On February 10, 1941 Radio Éireann broadcasts a radio appeal for Michael Devereux on behalf of his wife.

In September 1941, Stephen Hayes is accused of being an informer by a group of Northern IRA members led by Seán McCaughey. He manages to escape to a garda station. Shortly afterwards a large force of Garda Síochána and Irish Army descend on the area around the Davern farmhouse where they find Devereux’s car buried under an onion bed and eventually discover Devereux’s body, a year to the day after his death. Two weeks later, Plant, already in prison on IRA membership charges, is charged with Devereux’s murder. A trial is held with a senior IRA officer, Joseph O’Connor, also charged with Devereux’s murder. The first trial collapses after two days when Paddy Davern and Micheal Walsh, two of the prosecution witnesses, refuse to give evidence. This result leads to the court issuing a nolle prosequi order which should have meant the end of the affair, however both men are rearrested and recharged with the same offence, under Emergency Order 41f. Minister for Justice Gerald Boland transfers the case to a Special Military Court with army officers acting as judges. In addition to Plant, Paddy Davern and Michael Walsh are also now charged with Devereux’s murder. The second trial begins at Collins Barracks, Dublin in February 1942 with Seán MacBride, a former IRA Chief of Staff and future government minister as the defendant’s barrister. Davern states his original statement was given at gunpoint but under the new order even statements given under duress are admissible. The court only has two sentencing options – death or acquittal. Joseph O’Connor is acquitted and despite MacBride’s best efforts the other three are sentenced to death. Davern and Walsh have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment, and are both released in 1946.

Just one week after sentence is passed, Plant is executed on March 5, 1942, in Portlaoise Prison by a six-man firing squad drawn from the Irish Army. Much bitterness is caused by the treatment of Plant’s relatives. Neither his wife or mother or infant son are allowed to visit him in the week before his execution. Censorship ensures there is little mention in the newspapers, so his family only learns of his execution from a brief radio broadcast shortly before they receive a telegram. He is buried in the grounds of Portlaoise Prison, but is reinterred in 1948, when he is buried with full IRA military honours in his local church St. Johnstown in County Tipperary, and a Celtic cross is erected over his grave.

Plant’s wife moves to the United States where she remarries. His brother Jimmy dies in London in 1978. The Plant’s family farm is now part of the Coolmore Estate.


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Birth of Charlie Kerins, Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army

Charlie Kerins, a physical force Irish Republican and Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), is born in Caherina, Tralee, County Kerry, on January 23, 1918. He is one of six IRA men who are executed by the Irish State between September 1940 and December 1944.

Kerins attends Balloonagh Mercy Convent School and then the CBS, Edward Street. At the age of 13, he wins a Kerry County Council scholarship and completes his secondary education at the Green Christian Brothers and the Jeffers Institute. In 1930, he passes the Intermediate Certificate with honours and the matriculation examination to the National University of Ireland (NUI). He later does a commercial course and takes up employment in a radio business in Tralee.

In 1940, Kerins is sworn into the IRA and is appointed to the GHQ staff in May 1942. At the time, the Fianna Fáil government of Éamon de Valera is determined to preserve Irish neutrality during World War II. Therefore, the IRA’s bombing campaign in England, its attacks against targets in Northern Ireland, and its ties to the intelligence services of Nazi Germany are regarded as severe threats to Ireland’s national security. IRA men who are captured by the Gardaí are interned for the duration of the war by the Irish Army in the Curragh Camp in County Kildare.

On the morning of September 9, 1942, Garda Detective Sergeant Denis O’Brien is leaving his home in Ballyboden, Dublin. He is between his front gate and his car when he is cut down with Thompson submachine guns. O’Brien, an Anti-Treaty veteran of the Irish Civil War, had enlisted in the Garda Síochána in 1933. He is one of the most effective Detectives of the Special Branch division, which has its headquarters at Dublin Castle. The shooting greatly increases public feeling against the IRA, particularly as the murder is carried out in full view of his wife.

Following the arrest of Hugh McAteer in October 1942, Kerins is named Chief of Staff of the IRA. Despite a massive manhunt by Gardaí, he remains at large for two years. He stays at a County Waterford home for two weeks while he is on the run, having given his name as Pat Carney. He is captured several months after he leaves the home.

Kerins had previously left papers and guns hidden at Kathleen Farrell’s house in the Dublin suburb of Rathmines. He telephones the house, as he intends to retrieve them. However, Farrell’s telephone had been tapped by the Gardaí. On June 15, 1944, he is arrested in an early morning raid. He is sleeping when the Gardaí enter his bedroom and does not have an opportunity to reach the Thompson submachine gun which is hidden under his bed.

At a trial before the Special Criminal Court in Collins Barracks, Dublin, Kerins is formally charged on October 2, 1944, for the “shooting at Rathfarnham of Detective Dinny O’Brien.” At the end of his trial, the president of the Military Court delays sentence until later in the day to allow Kerins, if he wishes, to make an application whereby he might avoid a capital sentence. When the court resumes, he says, “You could have adjourned it for six years as far as I am concerned, as my attitude towards this Court will always be the same.” He thus deprives himself of the right to give evidence, to face cross-examination, or to call witnesses.

Despite legal moves initiated by Seán MacBride, public protests, and parliamentary intervention by TDs from Clann na Talmhan, Labour, and Independent Oliver J. Flanagan in Leinster House, the Fianna Fáil government of Éamon de Valera refuses to issue a reprieve. On December 1, 1944, in Mountjoy Prison, Kerins is hanged by British chief executioner Albert Pierrepoint, who is employed by the Irish Government for such occasions.

Kerins is the last IRA member to be executed in the Republic of Ireland. He is buried in the prison yard. In September 1948, his remains are exhumed and released to his family. He is buried in the Republican plot at Rath Cemetery, Tralee, County Kerry.


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Death of George Moore, Novelist, Poet & Critic

George Augustus Moore, novelist, short story writer, poet, art critic, memoirist, and dramatist, dies at his home in London on January 21, 1933. He is considered an innovator in fiction in his day.

Moore is born in Moore Hall, near Lough Carra, County Mayo on February 24, 1852. He comes from a distinguished Catholic family of Irish landholders. When he is 21, he leaves Ireland for Paris to become a painter. His Reminiscences of the Impressionist Painters (1906) vividly describes the Café Nouvelle-Athènes and the circle of Impressionist painters who frequent it. He is particularly friendly with Édouard Manet, who sketches three portraits of him. Another account of the years in Paris, in which he introduces the younger generation in England to his version of fin de siècle decadence, is his first autobiography, Confessions of a Young Man (1888).

Deciding that he has no talent for painting, Moore returns to London in 1882 to write. His first novels, A Modern Lover (1883) and A Mummer’s Wife (1885), introduce a new note of French Naturalism into the English scene, and he later adopts the realistic techniques of Gustave Flaubert and Honoré de Balzac. Esther Waters (1894), his best novel, deals with the plight of a servant girl who has a baby out of wedlock. It is a story of hardship and humiliation illumined by the novelist’s compassion. It is an immediate success, and he follows it with works in a similar vein: Evelyn Innes (1898) and Sister Teresa (1901).

In 1901 Moore moves to Dublin, partly because of his loathing for the South African War and partly because of the Irish Literary Revival spearheaded by his friend, the poet William Butler Yeats. In Dublin he contributes notably to the planning of the Abbey Theatre. He also produces The Untilled Field (1903), a volume of fine short stories reminiscent of Ivan Turgenev’s writing that focuses on the drudgery of Irish rural life, and a short poetic novel, The Lake (1905). The real fruits of his life in Ireland, however, come with the trilogy Hail and Farewell (Ave, 1911; Salve, 1912; Vale, 1914). Discursive, affectionate, and satirical by turns, it reads like a sustained monologue that is both a carefully studied piece of self-revelation and an acute, though not always reliable, portrait gallery of his Irish acquaintance, which included Yeats, George William Russell, and Lady Gregory. Above all it is a perfectly modulated display of the comic spirit.

The increasing narrowness of the Irish mind, politics, and clericalism sends Moore back to England in 1911. After Hail and Farewell, he makes another literary departure. Aiming at epic effect he produces The Brook Kerith (1916), an elaborate and stylish retelling of the Gospel story that is surprisingly effective despite some dull patches. He continues his attempts to find a prose style worthy of epic theme in Héloïse and Abélard (1921). His other works include A Story-Teller’s Holiday (1918), a blend of autobiography, anecdote, Irish legend, and satire, Conversations in Ebury Street (1924), autobiography, The Pastoral Loves of Daphnis and Chloe (1924) and Ulick and Soracha (1926), an Irish legendary romance.

George Moore dies at his home at Ebury Street in the London district of Belgravia on January 21, 1933, leaving a fortune of £70,000. He is cremated in London at a service attended by Ramsay MacDonald among others. An urn containing his ashes is interred on Castle Island in Lough Carra in view of the ruins of Moore Hall, which had been burned by anti-treaty forces in 1923, during the final months of the Irish Civil War.