Category Archives: Free State in 1920s, 1930s and 1940s
by Eamon Heffernan
Wicklow Republicans gathered on Sunday, May 27 to commemorate Commandant Neil Plunkett O’Boyle at Knocknadruce, Valleymount, County Wicklow.* Cmdt O’Boyle was murdered there by the Free Staters on May 8 1923, as the civil war was coming to a close.
O’Boyle was a Donegal man and was brought up on a small farm near Burtonport. As a teenager he had a keen interest in Irish Republicanism and in the Irish language but initially could not get involved in politics as he helped his mother in looking after his father who was in poor health.
O’Boyle was 19 when his father died and he then needed to work to support his family. For a short time he worked on the railway but his open support for the republican cause led to harassment by the Royal Irish Constabulary and he was forced to leave Ireland at the age of 21. He went for Scotland where he worked as a miner.
While in Scotland he joined the IRA and began procuring weapons to be sent back to Ireland. However, he was caught by the Scottish police and in December 1920 sentenced to five years hard labour at Peterhead prison. He spent long periods there in solitary confinement.
When the ‘treaty of surrender, aka the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, was signed O’Boyle qualified for release. He was freed in February 1922. Nevertheless he opposed the Treaty as a betrayal of what had been fought for in the war for independence.
He returned to Read the rest of this entry
by Charlie McGuire
The Irish Civil War of 1922–23 is one of the most neglected events in Irish history. In contrast to the Tan War of 1919–21, a celebrated event about which a great deal has been written, very little attention has been paid to a conflict that not only exacted a heavier toll in terms of casualties, but was also more significant in shaping subsequent political divisions within the southern state itself.
Ken Loach’s acclaimed film The Wind That Shakes the Barley is perhaps the first film to look in any detail at the nature of the divides that existed within the Irish independence movement, and the manner in which these worsened after the signing of the December 1921 Treaty.
Leaving aside the predictable hostility from the armchair imperialists of the English Tory press, most serious critical comment concerning the film has been positive and has recognised the importance of opening up a debate on this important period in modern Irish history. It is as a contribution in this direction that this article on the experience of communists in the Irish civil war is intended.
The Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) was formed in Read the rest of this entry
December 8 marked the 95th anniversary of the execution without trial of left-republicans Liam Mellows (1895-1922), Rory O’Connor (1883-1922), Joe McKelvey (1898-1922) and Dick Barrett (1889-1922). The four had been taken prisoner after the surrender of the anti-Treaty forces in the Four Courts in Dublin on June 30.
In the ten months of the civil war the Free State would murder in cold blood more republicans than the British had in the almost three years of the war for independence (aka the Tan War).
Further reading (three chapters from my old MA thesis, written in 1995 and the first few months of 1996):
On 13 December 1936 Frank Conroy, a member of the Republican Congress and the Communist Party of Ireland, sailed on the Holyhead ferry, alongside Frank Ryan, determined to defend the Spanish Republic against the fascist rebellion.
This Spanish Civil War hero died on 28 December 1936 fighting with the 15th International Brigade.
With no clue to when or where Frank Conroy was born or any trace of his family, and with only a few snippets of information about his involvement in the Spanish Civil War, the Frank Conroy Commemoration Committee organised its first event on 16 December 2012 at the Republican Memorial in Kildare.
Historian James Durney, who attended this first commemoration, said that, while all historical references to Conroy mention that he was from Kildare, it’s not clear if he was from the Read the rest of this entry
In 1935, Trinidadian Marxist C.L.R. James, a leading figure in the Trotskyist movement in Britain at the time, and an important figure in pan-Africanism, visited Dublin to speak about the Italian invasion of Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia).
James would meet Nora Connolly O’Brien and the Irish visit would make a significant impact on him.
Later he would write about the impact of James Connolly and the 1916 Rising on himself (see here).
Well worth reading is the piece Donal Fallon has just written about the visit, see here.