Stories from the Rising
Sir, – I wish to congratulate your newspaper on its extensive coverage of the Military Service Pensions Collection, which in turn reflects the excellent work undertaken by Comdt Patrick Brennan’s team at the Military Archives over the past eight years to make this wonderful resource available to the public in such an easily accessible format.
The initial refusal of an Army Pension to Margaret Skinnider, an opponent of the Anglo-Irish Treaty (Home News, January 17th), is worthy of contrast with the award of a Military Service Pension to the pro-Treaty Dr Brigid Lyons. While members of Cumann na mBan were not eligible for pensions under the 1924 Military Service Pensions Act, Lyons was deemed to have given service in the Irish Volunteers and also fulfilled the criterion of serving in the Irish Army during the Civil War. A question arose over her eligibility on account of her gender, but the then attorney general, John A Costello, considered the term “person” in the legislation to be covered by the Interpretation Act of 1923 and thus to include women.
Stephen Collins makes an important point about the monetary value of the pensions, though it should be noted that until 1953 pensioners who were in receipt of other remuneration from the State had their pensions reduced proportionate to their other State income, so government ministers were unlikely to receive the full value of the nominal pension awarded. In such cases the motivation for applying was recognition; applications were made initially for Certificates of Military Service, and when these were granted a pension could be applied for.
There was significant political opposition to the inclusion of the Connaught Rangers mutineers in this post-revolutionary compensation process, with a sceptical (and no doubt parsimonious) Ernest Blythe declaring that their “patriotism was an afterthought”. The fact that many of the Connaughts covered by the legislation enlisted voluntarily in the British army after the conscription crisis of April 1918 was reflected in the decision only to award them smaller one-off gratuities rather than pensions. – Is mise,
Dr MARIE COLEMAN,
School of History &
Queen’s University Belfast.
Sir, – Even in the 21st century I find it almost unfathomable that a civil servant in Dublin in the 1930s could come to the view that a woman volunteer who was shot three times by a British soldier while on service in the St Stephen’s Green garrison in 1916 could be refused a pension because he (and it would have been a he) deemed the law only was “applicable to soldiers as generally understood in the masculine sense” (Home News, January 17th).
Margaret Skinnider, who was my aunt, and our family were very close in Dublin. She was very proud of her service in 1916, and later in the Black and Tan war and in the Civil War. I don’t recall her making any mention of the pension refusal. Her indignation would have been immense. I suppose Countess Markievicz was dealt with in a similar fashion. – Yours, etc,
New South Wales,