Part 4: 'Down Into the Mire'

The execution of Kevin Barry dashes any notion the IRA had that the war against the British could be fought chivalrously. The IRA strikes back hard, and a British dragnet grabs seven Volunteers.

There is no death I would not crave
If thus I'd save your heart from tears;
To snatch your glory from the grave
I'd brave all fates and feel no fears
Although my heart be calm and cold
And feel no flames nor mirth of Love
Nor buoyed with hope be overbold
To seize and hold the shining Dove

 

From "There Is No Deed I Would Not Dare"
by Joseph M. Plunkett

 

By Kieron Punch

Members of the infamous "Cairo Gang." These British agents' days were numbered after Kevin Barry was killed by the Crown. Those numbered 1, 2 and 3 were Irish.

The change in the nature of the war became apparent less than three weeks after Barry's execution. On Sunday, 21st November, 1920, Volunteers from the Dublin Brigade, supported by Michael Collins' "Squad" entered various Dublin addresses and in a pre-emptive strike, shot dead 14 British secret service agents and regimental officers. Numerous arrests were made in the wake of the killings and some 500

prisoners were paraded for identification in front of witnesses. These "witnesses" proved to be very unreliable as some of the people they identified had been in prison at the time of the "Bloody Sunday" assassinations. Nevertheless, several men were selected to be charged before a Field General Court Martial and were incarcerated in Dublin's Kilmainham Jail.

Patrick "Paddy" Moran, from Crossna, Co. Roscommon, was a veteran of the Easter Week fighting at Jacob's Biscuit Factory and had been imprisoned at Knutsford and Wormwood Scrubs in England, before being sent to Frongoch Internment Camp in Wales. After the amnesty for Irish prisoners, Moran resumed his service with the Irish Volunteers, rising to the rank of Captain in command of "D" Company, 2nd Battalion. Despite claims that he was four miles away at the time, Moran was charged with the murder, at 38 Upper Mount Street, of Peter Ashmunt Aimes, ex-Grenadier Guards and co-leader of the notorious "Cairo Gang" of secret service agents nearly destroyed by Collins' assassins. Imprisoned only 2 cells away from Moran was the legendary Ernie O'Malley, with whom he became good friends. O'Malley described his comrade thus, "Moran was stolid and serious. There was a roll in his walk. Of stocky build, but sinewy; fuzzy thick hair, showing two moons on his broad forehead. He had a strong pleasant face. He knew Collins and Mulcahy, and spoke of himself as 'the old gunner' ...".

Learn more about Kevin Barry and all the other men who took on an Empire, and then each other, in Who's Who in the Irish War of Independence & Civil War


Thomas Whelan, from Galway, was charged with the murder of Captain G. T. Bagally, who had been shot at 119 Lower Baggot Street. Bagally was a prosecutor under the Restoration of Order in Ireland Regulations but had been targeted for assassination due to his role in the "Cairo Gang" murder of Kilmallock solicitor, John Lynch, who had been mistaken for IRA commander Liam Lynch. Although there were no witnesses to the death of Bagally, Whelan

Courtesy of Kilmainham Jail Museum 
Tom Whelan

was "identified" as one of the gunmen and sent to Kilmainham. Here he was housed in the wing of the prison known to the inmates as "Murderers Gallery", and became an acquaintance of Paddy Moran and Ernie O'Malley.

O'Malley described Whelan as "... smooth-faced, quiet and brown eyed with wavy hair; he smiled quietly and steadily. His voice was soft and when he laughed with the others one knew that the fibre was not as hard and that there was a shade of wistfulness about him." It emerged later that while under torture, a prisoner named Barnett had made a false statement which, he feared, had incriminated Whelan. When Barnett eventually heard of Whelan's execution, he became hopelessly insane and was transferred to Richmond Asylum.

In the early days of February 1921, "Murderers' Gallery" received five new inmates who had been arrested after the failure of an IRA ambush in Drumcondra;

Courtesy of Kilmainham Jail Museum 
Patrick Doyle

Thomas Bryan, a native of Dublin, was an electrician by trade and had recently been married. He was an experienced Volunteer and had been appointed to membership of the Dublin Brigade's "Active Service Unit".

Patrick Doyle lived at St. Mary's Place, Dublin with his wife and four children. He was a carpenter.

Bernard Ryan had recently married his childhood sweetheart, having finally gained financial security through his job as an apprentice tailor. He was also a member of the ASU.

Frank Flood lived at 30 Summerhill Parade, in Dublin. He was a brilliant engineering student in his second year at University College Dublin, where he had become firm friends with Kevin Barry. Frank had served in the same "H" Company as his friend but had recently been promoted to 1st Lieutenant of the Active Service Unit. Frank was one of eight boys, most of whom were involved in the Volunteers. The eldest brother, Sean, served five years in Peterhead Prison, Scotland, for his participation in an attempt to rescue men under sentence of death in Derry. He died shortly after his release.

Another brother, Commandant Peter Flood, lead the National Army into what is now Collins barracks during the take over from the British after theTreaty. Thomas Flood was arrested during the attack on the Custom House and with five comrades was charged with treason. The night before the trial, he awoke with appendicitis and was operated on in the King George V Hospital, causing the trial to be put back to a later date. On the day before the Court Martial the Truce was declared, thus saving all six Volunteers and sparing Thomas from suffering the same fate as Frank.

The last member of the Drumcondra prisoners was 17-year-old Dermot O'Sullivan.

Tom Barry commanded many ambushes like the one these men participated in during the War of Independence. Read his story in Guerilla Days in Ireland 

On Friday, January 21, these five men and half a dozen of their comrades from the 1st Battalion, moved into positions near the Tolka Bridge, on the main road leading north from Dublin. From here they hoped to attack one of the many RIC patrols which used the road to drive to and from their base at Gormanstown, near Drogheda.

The Volunteers loop-holed a brick wall and a fence near the bridge and constructed a trench inside the wall. Their movements, however, attracted suspicion, the authorities were informed, and a large number of Auxiliaries were despatched to the scene. In the meantime, the ambushers had commenced an attack upon two lorry-loads of RIC constables, who returned fire until the vehicles were able to accelerate out of range. It was now, as the Volunteers were dispersing, that the Auxiliaries arrived at the rear of the Volunteers and cut off their escape. Some managed to dash across fields to safety but others were arrested as they attempted to seek refuge in houses in the vicinity. All of the prisoners were found in possession of revolvers and ammunition, while Frank Flood was also found to have a grenade in his pocket.

Part 5 -- "England Executes Prisoners of War"

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Tags: Barry, IRA, Ireland, Kevin, War

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