Medic who became a martyr for the Republic


IRISH LIVES:KEVIN GERARD BARRY (1902–20), republican, was born on January 20th, 1902, at 8 Fleet Street, Dublin, the fourth of seven children of Thomas Barry, dairyman, and Mary Barry (née Dowling), both from Co Carlow. He joined the Irish Volunteers while at Belvedere College. In 1919 he entered University College Dublin to study medicine.

Barry took part in a successful raid for arms on the military post at King’s Inns, Dublin, in June 1920; an abortive attempt to burn Aughavanagh House, Aughrim, Co Wicklow, in July; and an attack on a British ration party in Church Street, Dublin, in September with the aim of seizing arms. The final operation failed when firing broke out and three soldiers were killed or fatally wounded. He became the first Volunteer to be captured in an armed attack since 1916.

During interrogation he was threatened with a bayonet and mistreated. A general court martial, which he refused to recognise, condemned him to death on October 20th for murdering the three soldiers. He was hanged in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, on November 1st, a week after the death of Terence MacSwiney. His conduct in custody was marked by cheerfulness and fortitude.

Barry was the first person to be tried and executed for a capital offence under the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act, 1920, passed 12 weeks earlier. Together with his youth, this made him a republican martyr celebrated in many ballads and verses. The best known, set to a tune popular with British servicemen, was recorded by the US singer Paul Robeson, among others. A memorial stained-glass window was later installed in the former UCD council chamber, afterwards called the Kevin Barry Room, on Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin.

From the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of Irish Biography. See for more details