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A blog about the recent history of Ireland, with a focus on the revolutionary period of the 20th century, including the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War.
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Seán McGarry: Revolutionary, Confidant, Victim

Posted December 14th, 2016 at 02:23 AM by Ascendant

Two articles on the life and times of Seán McGarry (1886-1958) who was intimately involved in the Howth Gunrunning and the Easter Rising, not to mention the War of Independence, the Dáil debates over the Treaty and, tragically, the Civil War.

A Prominent Republican Leader: The Trials and Tribulations of Seán McGarry, 1913-1919 (Part I)

He was an aide and companion to Tom Clarke and later Michael Collins, who described McGarry as “the one man who was closer in the confidence of the leaders of the rising than any other man today."

His close relationship with Clarke, and also with Seán MacDermott, defined his early career as a revolutionary, acting as a right-hand man and a go-between for both IRB leaders. This was despite an unfortunate incident in January 1916 when he accidently shot Clarke with a pistol that he thought was unloaded.

Safety first, kids!

McGarry spent most of the Rising, which he had helped to organise, in the GPO alongside Clarke. Before they evacuated the building at the end of the week, McGarry jokingly asked if he was going to hell for eating some pork chops on Easter Friday.


Twenty Years a Republican: The Trials and Tribulations of Seán McGarry, 1919-1922 (Part II)

Upon release from prison in December 1916, McGarry worked extensively with Michael Collins to reorganise the IRB and the revolutionary movement in general. One person who he failed to get along with, however, was Éamon de Valera, even after the two of them were imprisoned together in Lincoln Jail in May 1918.

The pair of them escaped in February 1919 with the help of Collins. Coded postcards had been sent out of Lincoln beforehand, showing a cartoon figure of McGarry (below) with cryptic messages beneath. The cipher was so obscure that not even his wife knew what to make of the cards at first

Tomasina McGarry was another notable figure during the War of Independence, and worked as a courier for Collins (working for the Big Fella apparently being something of a family business) for police moles, as well as hiding weapons (once in a teapot) or finding accommodation for those on the run.

McGarry took the side of the Treaty, and argued for its acceptance in the Dail debates. He verbally fenced with de Valera and Mary MacSwiney, and compared the opposition to Samson pulling down the temple on the country.

He was commissioned as a captain in the Free State army, and narrowly avoided death in the course of the Civil War, being targeted for assassination and, at one point, pinned down in Amiens Street Railway Station by enemy snipers.

His good luck could not last forever, however, and his long record of service to the national cause did nothing to prevent the tragedy on the 10th December 1922, when the family home in Dublin was targeted for burning.
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