Category Archives: War for Independence period
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
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):
Kevin’s book The New Politics of Sinn Fein (Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 2007) is essential reading for tracing the evolution of the Provos and how the British state drew them into a process of betrayal. The talk below is from last August (August 2016), given at the Communist University in London.