Kevin Barry (pictured, left) wearing the uniform of ‘H’ Company, 1st Battalion, Dublin Brigade of the IRA. He was 18 years of age when that photograph was taken, and that same age when he was put to death by Westminster.

He was executed on November 1st 1920 – 97 years ago on this date – in Mountjoy jail in Dublin by the British. He was the first Irish republican to be executed by the British since 1916, and was captured while on active service outside the entrance of Monk’s bakery in Dublin. Although he was born in Dublin he spent much of his life at the family home in Tombeigh, Hackettstown, in Carlow. Both sides of his family, the Barry’s and the Dowling’s, came from the area, and some of his ancestors had fought in 1798. His was a strong republican family. At the time of his death his eldest brother Mick was O/C of the volunteers in Tombeigh and his sister Sheila was in Cumann na mBan.

On Monday 20th September,1920, 18-year-old Kevin Barry had gone to Mass and received Holy Communion, then joined a party of IRA volunteers on Bolton Street in Dublin. Their orders were to ambush a British army truck as it picked up a delivery of bread from Monk’s Bakery at the junction of North King Street and Church Street and capture their weapons. The ambush was scheduled for 11am, which gave him enough time to take part in the operation and return to UCD in time for a medical examination he had at 2pm. The gun he was using jammed during the operation (he had left his own weapon in Carlow and was using a borrowed one) and he was forced to seek shelter – he rolled under the British Army truck and continued trying to free the jammed gun. His comrades left the scene as they were outnumbered and had lost the element of surprise, and Barry might very well have escaped capture in his hiding place had a local woman, a Mrs Garrett, who ran a coal and vegetable shop near the bakery, not shouted out to the driver of the British Army lorry that he shouldn’t move it as the person under it (Kevin Barry) could get run over. Barry was captured and placed in the back of the military lorry along with three dead or mortally wounded British soldiers.

The woman who shouted the warning blamed herself, as did some of her neighbours, but Kevin’s sister, Kathy, exonerated the woman from any blame for his capture – “Incidentally, I should mention that some months after his execution we were most distressed to hear that this woman had been driven mad and was in an asylum as a result of the blame attached to her by her neighbours. There was nothing we could usefully do about it beyond explaining where we could that, in Kevin’s own account of it to me on the day of his court martial, he was convinced that she cried out because she was afraid that the man under the lorry would be run over…”

On Halloween night, 1920 – the night before his execution – Kevin Barry was given a blue-leaded pencil and paper with which to write his last letter : “Dear Boys, I had quite a crowd of visitors today and a crowd from the college prayed and sang outside the gates but perhaps you were there. Well boys, we have seen some good times, and I have always considered myself lucky to have such a crowd of pals. It’s the only thing which makes it hard to go, the fact of leaving you chaps and other friends behind. Now I charge you thank anybody you know for me, who has had masses etc said. Everybody has been awfully decent and I can assure you I appreciate it. Also say just a few more prayers when I go over, and then you can rest. Your pal, Kevin.” As he was writing that last letter, Father Francis Browne SJ, a teacher at Belvedere College, cycled to the Vice Regal lodge in Dublin’s Phoenix Park to plead for Barry’s life, but to no avail : 18-year-old Kevin Barry was hanged in Mountjoy Jail in Dublin on the 1st November 1920, the first republican to be executed since the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916.

‘Just a lad of eighteen summers…’

UNITY! ON WHAT BASIS? asks Sinn Féin President. From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, October 1954.

Speaking at a public meeting held by the Austin Stack Cumann, Sinn Féin, at Elverys Corner in O’Connell Street, Dublin, on Saturday 25th September (1954), Tomas O Dubhghaill said – “We in Sinn Féin are being repeatedly asked why don’t you unite with such-and-such a group, why don’t you co-operate with so-and-so party? We of Sinn Féin are all for unity, our greatest hope is to bring together all sections and groups in the country for the benefit of the Nation as a whole. But we must achieve that unity on a proper basis, on the basis on which it was attained before.

That basis is the Republic of All Ireland, the re-assembly of the Republican Parliament for all 32 Counties, the putting into effect of the Declaration of Independence issued by the First Dáil Éireann in January 1919. On that basis our people stood united in face of a reign of torture and terror until the disastrous Treaty in 1922. On that basis they can be again united, and can take up the struggle from where it was left off then, and carry it to victory!”

The instinct of the people is sound, they will respond if given the opportunity. We intend to provide that opportunity and if necessary to clear all the politicians out of the way when doing so. This is the basis for unity – unity for the Republic – unity to secure that every man born within the four shores of Ireland will have the opportunity to secure a decent livelihood for himself and his family here at home – unity to bring the dream of the men of Easter Week into living reality. Other speakers were Seoirse Dearle, Sean O Suileabhain and Padraig O’ h-Airneide. A large crowd, with many Meath and Kerry supporters gave the speakers an enthusiastic reception.


The political tempo in the Six Counties is steadily building up. With the British troops permanently ‘standing to’ since the raid on Gough Barracks, with the scare at Hollywood Military Barracks just outside Belfast, the panic about an explosion during the English queen’s visit and the alleged shooting into a police barracks in Derry, the occupation forces are very much ‘on edge’.

Symptoms of their nervous tension are the repeated raids, questioning, threatening and spasmodic outbursts of police savagery. These, instead of suppressing, only help to heighten the National Spirit in the area… (MORE LATER).


‘On 1st November 1884 the Gaelic Athletic Association was founded at Miss Hayes’ Commercial Hotel, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, by Michael Cusack (Clareman, teacher, sportsman and nationalist) and Maurice Davin (a Tipperary man who at the time was Ireland’s most famous athlete). Other founding members present were John Wyse-Power, John McKay, J.K. Bracken, Joseph O’Ryan and Thomas St George McCarthy. Many of the seven men who attended the meeting were Fenians. Not present at the Thurles meeting was Patrick W. Nally, a keen athlete and leading IRB organiser who also played a prominent role in bringing about the birth of the GAA : he was the one who suggested the organisation to Cusack…’ (from here.)

The objective of the new organisation was to to foster and promote native Irish pastimes, to open athletics to all social classes and to aid in the establishment of hurling and football clubs and, in order to encourage contact between towns and cities, it organised inter-county matches. One of its founding members, Michael Cusack, was a pioneer of Irish language revival and a founder member of the Gaelic League, and was inspired by the ideal of restoring pride in the national games of hurling and football and – through them – instilling hope and determination among Irish manhood in their ability to control their country’s destiny.

It had somewhat of a republican ‘leaning’ to it in its earlier years, through people like Michael Cusack and, for instance, James Nowlan who, in 1898, at 36 years of age, was elected as Alderman to Kilkenny Corporation and availed of the position to great effect in publicising the then fourteen-year’s young ‘Gaelic Athletic Association’, but was less successful in persuading the Central Council of the GAA that it should begin preparations to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1798 Rising – indeed, the GAA leadership refused to even appoint representatives to the 1798 Centenary Committee, but James Nowlan and a few other republican-minded GAA members insisted on playing their part in the celebrations. At the GAA Congress held in September 1901, he was elected President (the sixth president of the GAA, a position he served in from 1901 to 1921) and attempted to steer the organisation towards a more republican path ; for instance, when the ‘Irish Volunteers’ was formed, Nowlan stated that it was a most suitable group for GAA members to join, even though other GAA leaders were not as enthusiastic about the group, or about republicanism in general.

And that ‘mildly nationalist/small-‘r’ republican’-outlook has unfortunately prevailed in the overall leadership and membership of the GAA, so much so that, during the 1981 hunger-strikes.. ‘…the whole question of the role of the GAA in Nationalist affairs was raised, with it becoming blatantly clear that the courage was lacking from top GAA officials to come out openly, and support with direct action, motions passed at successive GAA congresses which backed the prisoners’ demands. The influence of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael members, and the ever-present voice of the Garda Síochána in the GAA, was beginning to cause even more alarm among GAA Headquarters’ staff ; the grassroots’ support at Northern level was understandable as many clubs had at least one member in Long Kesh, but the gulf in understanding of many Southern GAA personnel was a reflection of how removed from the realities of the Northern situation they had become. GAA Headquarters kept one careful eye on events in Long Kesh and the other on those middle-class conservatives who wanted the GAA to steer well clear of involvement in the H-Blocks crisis. Statements from the GAA management committee referred to bringing “the whole sad situation to an end..in the interests of peace..” – hardly words calculated to cause Southern politicians to take seriously the degree of GAA concern over the prison situation..other statements talked of “humanitarian concern”, while the increased pressure exerted by some GAA members in the South gave rise to terms such as “condemnation of violence and men of violence” being increasingly included in policy statements from the GAA management committee..’ (from here.)

All in all – between the above and the ‘Rule 21’ issue, it’s not surprising that republicans have learned not to depend on overall GAA structures as a support base and, indeed, to be extra vigilent in any dealings with the GAA as it’s still ‘influenced by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Garda Síochána..’.

“AFTER 32 YEARS – AN OPEN LETTER,” by POW Philip Clarke. From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, February 1955.

‘Under the title ‘After 32 Years – an open letter’, the following article was written for ‘THE UNITED IRISHMAN’ newspaper by Philip Clarke (pictured, right), shortly before his arrest in connection with the Omagh Raid on October 17 last (1954). The circumstances surrounding the arrest and trial of Phil Clarke and his comrades are ample proof that there are young men in Ireland today who have taken the words of Pearse to heart : “It is not enough to say merely ‘I believe’, one must also say ‘I serve’ “.


Are we doomed to remain forever your slaves? We in the Republican Movement think not. You are strong indeed but you are far from omnipotent. You have the armed might of a powerful nation behind you, but we have humbled that might before. You have the constitutions of both North and South to legalise your tyranny, but we take our stand by a Cause which is older by far than either of them. You may have the ears of the world to fill with your propaganda but we still have the heart of the Irish nation beating in unison with ours. You have ‘respectable’ politicians in your livery but we have Irishmen of honesty and integrity to displace them. (MORE LATER).


‘Exhumed in glory a November moon was drifting

And freedom’s light aglow

When some IRA had gathered in a graveyard in Mayo.

Those brave Irish Freedom fighters

Who came together in the West

Had come to fill the promise to lay Frank Stagg at rest.’

Frank Stagg had begun his fourth (and final) hunger strike in late 1975 – having been convicted under the notorious ‘British Conspiracy Laws’ (enacted by Westminster during the latter half of the 19th century to imprison Irish political activists without a fair trial) – as it was the only ‘weapon’ he had at his disposal with which to impress on his British captors his desire to be repatriated to Ireland. He died, blind and weighing just four stone, in Wakefield Prison on 12th February 1976, after 62 days on hunger strike.

His remains were hijacked by suited, uniformed and armed members of the State, acting under orders from FS Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave and his ‘Justice’ Minister, Paddy Cooney – the airplane carrying his coffin was diverted from Dublin to Shannon and, when it landed, the Special Branch surrounded it and forcibly removed the coffin and buried it, supported by an armed escort, under six feet of concrete in Leigue Cemetery in Ballina, County Mayo, in a grave purchased by the Free Staters and which was located about 70 meters from the Republican Plot in that cemetery.

Armed State operatives maintained a heavy presence in the graveyard to prevent Irish republicans from affording Frank Stagg a proper burial but they were not the only group keeping a watch on the grave : the IRA were aware of their presence and, after the Staters withdrew, the IRA made their move: on the night of November 5th, 1977, Paul Stanley, of Straffan, Co Kildare, and other IRA men, disinterred Frank Stagg’s remains and reburied them with his comrade, Michael Gaughan.

When questioned in Leinster House about this sordid affair, Paddy Cooney stated – “The persistent attempts by members of an unlawful organisation and their associates to exploit the situation that arose are well known and, indeed, notorious. Because of this and because also of certain obligations of confidentiality, I must decline to make any comment on the question of the choice of burial place..” The “question of the choice of burial place” was, thankfully, not one that was left to Cooney and his thugs to decide. However : a documentary on this subject, entitled ‘Frank Stagg’s Three Funerals’, promoted by the following blurb – ‘Frank Stagg’s body was placed in a grave in Ballina by the Gárdaí, it was covered with concrete and an armed guard stood by to prevent his body being moved to the Republican plot where he wished to be buried. However, they overlooked one minor detail..’will be aired on the ‘Documentary On One’ programme on RTE Radio 1, on Saturday 4th November 2017, at 2pm. That’s presuming the Free Staters don’t attempt to pull/bury it, of course…


‘On 28 June 1920, five men from C Company of the 1st Battalion at Wellington Barracks, Jalandhar, Punjab decided to protest against the effects of martial law in Ireland by refusing to soldier. They were soon joined in their protest by other Rangers (the protesters included at least one Englishman, John Miranda, from Liverpool) declaring they would not return to duty until British forces left Ireland. Led by Private James Daly ( whose brother William took part in the protest at Jalandhar), the protest spread to the Connaught Ranger company at Solon however the Connaught Ranger company at Jutogh hill-station remained loyal to the British crown. A party of men led by Daly made an attempt to recover their arms, storming the armory.

The loyal British guard successfully defended it, and two of Daly’s party, Privates Patrick Smythe and Peter Sears, were killed in the firefight. Within days, both garrisons were occupied by loyal British troops; Daly and his followers surrendered and were taken prisoner. Eighty-eight mutineers were court martialed : nineteen men were sentenced to death (eighteen later had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment), 59 were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, and ten were acquitted. The 21-year-old Daly was shot by a firing squad in Dagshai Prison on 2 November 1920. He was the last member of the British Armed Forces to be executed for mutiny. Private Sears and Private Smyth were buried at Solan, while Daly and Miranda (who later died in prison) were buried at the Dagshai graveyard until 1970..’ (from here.)

‘On November 2nd, 1920, James Daly was killed by a British Army firing squad in India. He had been one of the leaders of the so-called ‘India Mutiny’, but had not been among its instigators. The mutiny began on May 28th, 1920, led by Joseph Hawes at Wellington barracks in Jullundar, India, when 350 Irish members of the famous Connaught Rangers regiment of the British Army laid down their arms and refused to keep soldiering as long as British troops remained in Ireland…as word of more and more British violence against the Irish people spread among the troops, they had begun to question the morality of wearing the uniforms of the same army that was terrorising families back home. The mutiny soon spread to Ranger detachments in Solon and Jutogh. Daly was stationed at Solon and helped lead the action of the mutineers there. Two would die in Solon during a brief confrontation. Eventually, 61 Rangers were convicted by courts martial and 14 sentenced to death. All but one of those condemned men had their sentences reduced. James Daly of Tyrellspass, County Westmeath, was the only one shot. The Connaught Rangers would not survive much longer than Daly ; in 1922 the regiment was disbanded after the signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty that created the Irish Free State. In 1970, James Daly’s body was brought home and buried at Tyrellspass. Among those in the guard of honor at the reinterment ceremony were five of his fellow mutineers: Joseph Hawes, James Gorman, Eugene Egan, Patrick Hynes, and William Coote…’ (from here.)

“The moral courage and sacrifice shown by James Daly and his comrades shines like a beacon light years after those momentous events in Jullander and Solon in India in June and July of 1920. The leadership shown by James Daly and Joe Hawes galvanised their comrades into striking a blow for the freedom of their own land. We also remember with pride the sacrifices of Peter Sears and Patrick Smythe who died at the hands of the British army during the mutiny and who are interred in Glasnevin cemetery..” – RSF President Des Dalton, 2010 : more here.

At that time, in Ireland, the Black and Tan War was at its height. Irishmen serving with the British Army in India mutinied in protest at the atrocities being committed in Ireland by the British. On June 27th, 1920, 350 Irishmen gave in their arms and refused to soldier for England. The mutiny was confined chiefly to members of ‘B’ and ‘C’ Companies, 1st Battalion, Connaught Ranger Regiment, stationed at Wellington Barracks, Jullunder, Punjab, India. The men at Jullunder were led by Private Joseph Hawes and their protest was joined two days later by a detachment of ‘C’ Company at the hill-station in Solon, under Private James Daly (regimental number 35025), a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. On June 30th, 1920, following the deaths of Privates Patrick Smythe, Louth (regimental number10079) and Peter Sears, Mayo (regimental number 32781) in an attempt to capture the magazine at Solon, the mutiny ended. Seventy-five of the mutineers were arrested and taken to Lucknow where they were held until September when they were moved to Dayshai Prison to stand trial.

While awaiting trial, the prisoners were subjected to such harsh treatment by the British that it resulted in the death of one of the men, Private John Miranda, a native of Liverpool. At the subsequent general court-martial , fourteen of the prisoners were sentenced to death and the remainder to terms of imprisonment varying from ten to twenty years. In mid-October 1920, 13 of the fourteen death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment – the exception was Jim Daly, a native of Tyrellspass, County Westmeath. After six months, the mutineers were transferred to Portland Convict Prison in England, where they suffered long periods of solitary confinement and ill-treatment during their fight for political status. They were later moved to Maidstone Prison and, on January 3rd, 1923, the remaining sixty mutineers were released and returned to Ireland.

In October 1970, the remains of Daly, Smythe and Sears were brought back to Ireland : Smythe, a native of Drogheda, Co. Louth and Sears, from Neale, Co. Mayo, were buried in the Republican Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. James Daly, who was executed in Jullunder in India on November 2nd, 1920, as per orders issued by Major-General Sir G. de S. Barrow, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., of ‘Northern Command of the British Army in India’, was re-interred in his native Tyrellspass. These men and those like them are remembered and cherished by Irish republicans, as they should be. The 1st November, 1920 – 97 years ago on this date – was James Daly’s last full day on this Earth. Gone but never forgotten.



By Jim McCann (Jean’s son). For Alex Crowe, RIP – “No Probablum”. Glandore Publishing, 1999.

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!


Outside the study hut all types of activities were happening to ensure that there was always a crowd of men in that general vicinity, so that the men coming out of the study hut carrying bags of earth from the tunnel were always surrounded by footballers, Irish dancers and spectators as they made the twenty foot journey from the study hut to the shower hut.

The two large jaw boxes in the shower hut couldn’t cope with the volume of earth being flushed down them. Other places of disposal were sought, including the walls of the shower hut and any orifice that could hold earth.

The digging was going on for about two, maybe three, weeks, and we (those of us who were not involved in the tunnel) were speculating as to the length of it. The estimations ran anywhere from 20 feet to 75 yards, but we could get no information out of the diggers, as for obvious reasons they were not allowed to say. There was one fact that you couldn’t escape concerning the escape, and that was the toilets… (MORE LATER).


On the 1st November 1920 – 97 years ago on this date – a ‘volunteer police force/ Ulster Special Constabulary’ scheme was officially announced by the British government, and recruitment for same began. This ‘new’ grouping, which was to be formed mainly from the ranks of the existing ‘Ulster Volunteer Force’ (UVF), a pro-British militia, received full backing from the then British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, as it would free up the RIC and other British military units for use elsewhere in Ireland, plus it was cheaper than having to raise a ‘proper’ (!) force, as this ‘new’ grouping was to be formatted in a manner that not all recruits would be paid : it would be established in three ‘parts’ and, at first, would only be set-up in the Belfast area of County Antrim and also in County Tyrone, but was soon extended to all six of the occupied counties. The ‘A Specials’ would be a paid, full-time group, armed and equipped in an equal manner to the RIC, the ‘B Specials’ would be part-time and unpaid, except for a clothing allowance, and would only be armed if their local RIC commander deemed it necessary.

Their ‘contract’ stipulated that they would do only “..occasional duty, usually one evening per week exclusive of training drills, in an area convenient to members, day duties being required only in an emergency..” The ‘C Specials’ were to be a reserve group, to be called out on ‘duty’ only in case of an emergency. When this three-part outfit was ‘fully staffed’, it numbered about 5,000 ‘A’, 18,000 ‘B’ and 7,000 ‘C’, and was an openly sectarian pro-British murder unit, which could count an estimated one in every five of the adult male Protestant population in Ireland as a member.

In 1925, Westminster thought it was time to ‘modernise’ its occupation of the part of Ireland it still claimed jurisdiction over – our six north-eastern counties (as remains the position today) and, in December that year, it offered the approximately 30,000 to 40,000-strong ‘Special Constabulary’ organisation a few bob to ‘go away’ (!) – £1,200,000 was put on the table, provided most of them agreed to disband (similar to what happened with the PIRA 73 years later – buying them out with a ‘bank-load’ of money). ‘Sir’ James Craig, up to then a great friend and supporter of the ‘Specials’, stated that they would have to go : on 10th December 1925, Craig told the ‘A’ and ‘C’ Specials that they were out of work and offered each man two months pay,
adding that the ‘B Specials’ were to be maintained as they were. However, the ‘A’ and ‘C’ Specials were not happy with the ‘disband now’ order from Craig ; not enough money was offered, it was on the mouth of Christmas, and the unemployment rate was running at over 20% – so the ‘A’ and ‘C’ Specials held meetings between themselves and, on 14th December 1925, they mutinied!

‘A’ and ‘C’ members in Derry ‘arrested’ their own Officers, as they did in Ballycastle – two days later (ie on 16th December 1925) a demand from the ‘A’ and ‘C’ ‘rebels’ (!) was handed over to ‘Sir’ Richard Dawson Bates, the Stormont ‘Minister for Home Affairs’, a solicitor by trade, who was also Secretary of the ‘Ulster Unionist Council’, a position he had held since 1905. The ‘Special Rebels’ were looking for more money ; they demanded a £200 tax-free ‘bonus’ for each member that was to be made redundant. Two days later (on the 18th December 1925) ‘Sir’ Bates replied to them that not only would they not be getting the £200 ‘bonus’ but if they didn’t back down immediately they would loose whatever few bob they were entitled to for being made redundant!
That message was delivered to the ‘mutiniers’ on 18th December 1925 ; on 19th December 1925 they all but apologised to Bates, released their hostages and signed on for the dole – the ‘hard men’ of the ‘Specials’ had been put in their place by a bigger thug than they were! By Christmas Day, 1925, the ‘A’ and ‘C’ Sections of the ‘Ulster’
(sic) Special Constabulary Association – the ‘Specials’ – were disbanded.

The ‘B’ Specials were indeed kept on as they were – it was only in 1969 that that gang of thugs ‘disbanded’ (actually, they changed uniform into that of the ‘Ulster Defence Regiment’ [UDR] and carried-on with their thuggery). It was in September 1969 that the (British) ‘Cameron Commission’ described the ‘B’ Specials as “a partisan and paramilitary force”, while the October 1969 ‘Hunt Report’ recommended that the ‘B’ Specials be disbanded. We now suffer from the RUC/PSNI, (mostly) confined (‘officially’ anyway) to operating in the six occupied counties and wearing more ‘people-friendly’ uniforms. But if a leopard could change its spots, it would still be, under its ‘new skin’, a leopard.

Thanks for reading,

About 11sixtynine

A mother of three (and a Granny!) and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
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