Offaly, 1923: ‘Undesirable girls’ rounded up and chained to railings

The Revolution Files:The actions by the Offaly brigade was listed under police work in the brigade activity reports

Men, possibly of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), resting in the hills of Tipperary during the Irish War of Independence, 1921. From the AE Bell Collection. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

County: Offaly
Incident: Execution of three IRA men at Birr Castle
Date: January 26th, 1923

IRA volunteers in Co Offaly rounded up “undesirable girls”, cut their hair and chained them to railings.

The actions by the Tullamore company of 1st battalion (Offaly brigade) was listed under police work in the brigade activity reports.

No further details are contained in the files, but it was common for the IRA to make an example of young women if they believed they were consorting with the enemy.


The Dáil courts were set up in 1919 by the first Dáil to act as a parallel justice system to the British one.

The Tullamore company listed six men, who were conveyed to the Maryborough (Portlaoise) lunatic asylum, which was the district mental hospital for the counties of Offaly, Laois, Longford and Westmeath.

Under the heading of police work, the Tullamore Company also deported a man named Gamble for stealing bales of wheat. He was sentenced to deportation, conveyed to the mailboat and given a ticket to England.

The files revealed that the owner of Tullamore Dew whiskey, a brand which is still going strong today, paid £100 to the IRA for arms after they investigated a series of raids on his wholesale stores in Tullamore. The owner is not named but the originator of the whiskey, Daniel E Williams (DEW), died in 1921.

The bitterness felt for years after the Civil War ended by those who had been on the anti-Treaty side is evidenced by a letter from Seán McGuinness, the officer who had commanded the IRA Offaly Brigade

McGuinness wrote to the Military Service Pensions Board about the execution of three men, William Conroy (20), Patrick Cunningham (22) and Colum Kelly (18), at Birr Castle in January 1923.

The three had been expelled from their IRA active service unit for some minor misdemeanours.

McGuinness wrote that the men returned to Tullamore, where they “remained unemployed and I presume penniless and without a smoke”.

He claimed they were executed by the Free State for a “few minor robberies”, though the court records show they were summarily executed for armed robbery.

McGuinness suggested that “their crime was nothing compared with that of the great betrayal of the Republic by the authority responsible for the killing of these three youths”.

See also:

1st Offaly BrigadeOpens in new window ]

William ConroyOpens in new window ]