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Thread: Ballyseedy and the "Terror Month" of March 1923

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    Politics.ie Member Kerrygold's Avatar
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    Default Ballyseedy and the "Terror Month" of March 1923

    Today marks the 90th anniversary of the beginning of what was to be the most brutal month of the Civil War in Co. Kerry.

    On March 6th, 5 Free State soldiers, including Captains Michael Dunne and Joseph Stapleton of Dublin Brigade, were killed in Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry, by a booby trap mine. The target of the trap was a particular local fellow by the name of Paddy "Pats" O'Connor who, according to the IRA, was a notorious torturer of prisoners. O'Connor joined the Free State army because of the treatment of his father by the local IRA.

    The Dublin Guards, who had been in Kerry since the previous August, were commanded by Paddy O'Daly. He was furious over the booby trap and it subsequently became clear that he was responsible for what took place following the Knocknagoshel incident.

    At around 2am on March 7th 9 IRA prisoners, many of whom had been tortured, were brought to Ballyseedy wood where they were told that they were to remove an "irregular road block". However, it was clear to the men what was in store for them when they had been shown 9 coffins in the barracks. Each were offered a cigarette and told it be "the last you'll have". They were then tied together to the mined road block and blown up. Some of the men were still alive and were finished off by grenade and machine gun.

    Unbeknownst to the Free State troops one man was blown clear and managed to escape. His name was Stephen Fuller (to become a FF TD in 1937). Because the bodies were so badly mangled all nine coffins were filled with the remains of the 8 who perished. This was to lead to a near riot in Tralee when the coffins were handed over the the families at the gates of Ballymullen barracks. The families broke open the coffins to try and identify the remains.

    Later on the same day a very similar incident took place at Countess Bridge in Killarney where 5 IRA prisoners where asked to remove a mined road block which was also blown up. Three of the men who lay wounded were finished off by grenade. Again, amazingly, a fifth man named Tadhg Coffey, survived and escaped.

    Five days later 5 more men were killed near Bahaghs workhouse in Cahersiveen. In order to prevent any more escapes the men were first shot in the legs. They were then put over a mine and blown up.

    When the details slowly emerged about what really happened the Free State government was forced to call an inquiry into what happened. They appointed none other than Major General Paddy O'Daly to oversee the court of inquiry in April. It was never going to be anything other than a whitewash.

    One Free State soldier Lt W McCarthy resigned his commission after the incident and called his colleagues “a murder gang”.

    Capt Niall Harrington (Author of Kerry Landings) of the Dublin Brigade reported that “the mines used in the slaughter of the prisoners were constructed in Tralee under the supervision of two senior Dublin Guards officers”. But neither he nor Lt McCarthy was ever called to testify.

    The families of the dead prisoners where denied any sort of financial compensation by the Free State in the aftermath. Patrick Buckley (IRA intelligence officer) left a wife and 6 children after him.

    These events were to leave a lasting legacy of pain and bitterness in Co. Kerry and for generations after politics was was shaped by what happened at Ballyseedy.

    Gaelic Football was to play a huge role in someway healing the wounds of the Civil War in Kerry and there are some very good books on the subject.

    Ryle Dwyer summed up in his piece below:

    When the State ignored such outrages from its earliest days, should anyone be surprised that successive governments ignored the clerical paedophile activity and the abuses at the Magdalene Laundries?
    How the State turned a blind eye to the Ballyseedy killings | Irish Examiner

    Last edited by Kerrygold; 6th March 2013 at 06:07 PM.

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    Politics.ie Member Cruimh's Avatar
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    If you can find a copy, 'Tomorrow was another day' by Seamus O'Connor is worth a read - A schoolmaster of that era in Kerry, he ended up in the USA.

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    Politics.ie Member Mackers's Avatar
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    As I have posted before Civil wars can be the most bitter of conflicts. Ireland has suffered more than most from its conflict. At the end of the day each side buries its dead and the families are left bereft. No one should be in any doubt that both sides in Irelands fought for what they believed in and that is a powerful motivation. I hope that at this remove people will remember that it is impossible to judge what happened then with a revisionist eye. Things were done that should not have been done by both sides. I say this as someone whose family had relations on both sides.
    Last edited by Mackers; 6th March 2013 at 05:28 PM.
    War doesn't work. Give peace a chance.

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    Politics.ie Member Kerrygold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mackers View Post
    As I have posted before Civil wars can be the most bitter of conflicts. Ireland has suffered more than most from its conflict. At the end of the day each side buries its dead and the families are left bereft. No one should be in any doubt that both sides in Irelands fought for what they believed in and that is a powerful motivation. I hope that at this remove people will remember that it is impossible to judge what happened then with a revisionist eye. Things were done that should not have been done by both sides. I say this as someone whose family had relations on both sides.
    True enough.

    I think the fact that the state denied and tried covered up what happened and then went onto deny any support to the families made the bitterness all the more deep in Kerry.

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    Politics.ie Member Mackers's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerrygold View Post
    True enough.

    I think the fact that the state denied and tried covered up what happened and then went onto deny any support to the families made the bitterness all the more deep in Kerry.
    Indeed. Every action causes a reaction and that fact is explosive in a Civil War scenario.
    War doesn't work. Give peace a chance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerrygold View Post
    Today marks the 90th anniversary of the beginning of what was to be the most brutal month of the Civil War in Co. Kerry.

    On March 6th, 5 Free State soldiers, including Captains Michael Dunne and Joseph Stapleton of Dublin Brigade, were killed in Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry, by a booby trap mine. The target of the trap was a particular local fellow by the name of Paddy "Pats" O'Connor who, according to the IRA, was a notorious torturer of prisoners. O'Connor joined the Free State army because of the treatment of his father by the local IRA.

    The Dublin Guards, who had been in Kerry since the previous August, were commanded by Paddy O'Daly. He was furious over the booby trap and it is now clear that he was responsible for what took place following the Knocknaghoshel incident.

    At around 2am on March 7th 9 IRA prisoners, many of whom were tortured, were brought to Ballyseedy wood where they were told that they were to remove an "irregular road block". However, it was clear to the men what was in store for them when they had been shown 9 coffins in the barracks. Each were offered a cigarette and told it be "the last you'll have". They were then tied together to the mined road block and blown up. Some of the men were still alive and were finished off by grenade and machine gun.

    Unbeknownst to the Free State troops one man was blown clear and managed to escape. His name was Stephen Fuller (to become a FF TD in 1937). Because the bodies were so badly mangled all nine coffins were filled with the remains of the 8 who perished. This was to lead to a near riot in Tralee when the coffins were handed over the the families at the gates of Ballymullen barracks. The families broke open the coffins to try and identify the remains.

    Later on the same day a very similar incident took place at Countess Bridge in Killarney where 5 IRA prisoners where asked to remove a mined road block which was also blown up. Three of the men who lay wounded were finished off by grenade. Again, amazingly, a fifth man named Tadhg Coffey, survived and escaped.

    Five days later 5 more men were killed near Bahaghs workhouse in Cahersiveen. In order to prevent any more escapes the men were first shot in the legs. They were then put over a mine and blown up.

    When the details slowly emerged about what really happened the Free State government was forced to call an inquiry into what happened. They appointed none other than Major General Paddy O'Daly to oversee the court of inquiry in April. It was never going to be anything other than a whitewash.

    One Free State soldier Lt W McCarthy resigned his commission after the incident and called his colleagues “a murder gang”.

    Capt Niall Harrington (Author of Kerry Landings) of the Dublin Brigade reported that “the mines used in the slaughter of the prisoners were constructed in Tralee under the supervision of two senior Dublin Guards officers”. But neither he nor Lt McCarthy was ever called to testify.

    The families of the dead prisoners where denied any sort of financial compensation by the Free State in the aftermath. Patrick Buckley (IRA intelligence officer) left a wife and 6 children after him.

    These events were to leave a lasting legacy of pain and bitterness in Co. Kerry and for generations after politics was was shaped by what happened at Ballyseedy.

    Gaelic Football was to play a huge role in someway healing the wounds of the Civil War in Kerry and there are some very good books on the subject.

    Ryle Dwyer summed up in his piece below:



    How the State turned a blind eye to the Ballyseedy killings | Irish Examiner

    Had heard of Ballyseedy but didn't know the tragic details before; thanks KG.

    Puts FG's hostile attitude to the relatives of Seamus Ludlow and the 34 murdered in the Forgotten Massacre in perspective.

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    Politics.ie Member FrankSpeaks's Avatar
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    In the Name of the Game by JJ Barrett gives a particularly good but short account of the role of the GAA in healing the Civil War wounds.
    There's a lot to be said for the fellow who doesn't say it himself. -- Maurice Switzer

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    Politics.ie Member Aindriu's Avatar
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    Excellent post! Thanks OP.
    If you continue to elect idiots in elections, don't be surprised when the result is an idiotic government.

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    Politics.ie Member Kerrygold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FrankSpeaks View Post
    In the Name of the Game by JJ Barrett gives a particularly good but short account of the role of the GAA in healing the Civil War wounds.
    Yep. Joe's father was a great Kerry footballer and anti treaty.

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    Major General O'Daly later resigned over a scandal in Cork in 1924:

    Three masked Free State army officers beat two young women with their Sam Browne belts and rubbed grease in their hair near the end of the Civil War in a murky incident in Kerry which became known as the “Kenmare Case”. It caused a major row within the cabinet and the resignation of the senior officer allegedly involved, Maj Gen Paddy O’Daly, but no one was prosecuted. The case was raised by Labour leader Tom Johnson in the Dáil a year after it happened.

    MR. JOHNSON quoted from the newspaper Éire a statement which, he said, was the first time that an allegation had been made public in regard to the matter. It was stated that two ladies, daughters of a local medical practitioner , had been dragged out of their beds by four Free State officers, brought into the garden in their night attire, and flogged with belts. Their hair was smeared with cart grease.
    July 24th, 1924 - The Irish Times - Tue, Jul 24, 2012

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