Carlow, 1921: The IRA shoot a pharmacist who wouldn’t close his shop

The Revolution Files: The owner refused to close for the funeral of Terence McSwiney

Image: Military Service Pensions Collection

Image: Military Service Pensions Collection

 

The Revolution Files is a collection of articles detailing one incident in each of Ireland’s 32 counties during the revolutionary years, from 1916 to the end of the Civil War in 1923. Read the full collection here

County: Carlow
Incident: Killings of William Kennedy and Michael O’Dempsey
Date: March 15th, 1921
Fatalities: 2

A prosperous shop owner, who refused to close for the funeral of Terence McSwiney, and the shop owner’s solicitor were executed by the Carlow Brigade of the IRA.

William Kennedy, a 44-year-old pharmacist in Borris, was told by the IRA in October 1920 that he had to close his premises for the funeral of McSwiney, the lord mayor of Cork, who died on hunger strike in Brixton Prison on October 25th, 1920.

The stand-off that ensued was to have deadly consequences for Kennedy and his solicitor Michael O’Dempsey, who was from Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.

The Borris company of the IRA sought a boycott of his premises. Kennedy, in turn, began to carry a pistol around with him. He also employed O’Dempsey to take out an injunction in the High Court against 10 men who were known republicans living locally.

After a brief truce for the Christmas period, hostilities began again in the new year, when one of the IRA men countersued Kennedy. O’Dempsey was abducted by the IRA and threatened. His offices were raided and the papers relevant to the case were stolen.

On March 15th, a party of IRA volunteers waited for Kennedy and O’Dempsey as they returned to Kennedy’s house on Main Street, Borris.

They fired at both men. Kennedy died immediately, O’Dempsey from his wounds two days later.

A brief account of the shootings is included in the Carlow Brigade files. The account states that “Kennedy’s activities with the RIC had made him a marked man and O’Dempsey was suspected of being associated with him. Both men were shot dead”.

In his statement for a military pension, John Hynes, the vice-commandant of the 4th battalion of the Carlow Brigade, stated that he was in charge of the operation which led to the deaths of the two men.

He also gave a statement to the Bureau of Military History stating that Kennedy had been consorting with the Black and Tans and that he had fired on IRA volunteers in the town.

The family of O’Dempsey protested his innocence and in February 1922 the Free State Government granted his mother compensation of £2,500 and an acknowledgement that he wasn’t a spy.

The sense of disillusionment with the process of applying for a military pension was laid bare in a letter from Christie Murphy, the former commandant of the 5th battalion.

Murphy apologised to the Brigade Activity Committee in trying to compile an accurate list of those who were involved in engagements. Just one of his former colleagues turned up to a meeting of the old brigade.

“I cannot get the details you want,” he wrote. “No one will attend a meeting or reply to any inquiries. I had a committee of 12. All their claims have been dismissed with the exception of two – myself and Peter Lamb. ”

See also:

Carlow Brigade

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.