Cork to be central to plans to mark the War of Independence in 2020

City’s Lord Mayor says events of 1920 will be marked with a year-long programme

Events to mark the War of Independence this year will be “Cork’s 1916”, the city’s Lord Mayor has said.

Cllr John Sheehan said Cork people "feel ownership over this period of history" given the county's centrality to events which occurred in 1920.

In that year two of the city's lord mayors died. Tomás Mac Curtain was shot dead in his home on March 20th 1920. His successor Terence MacSwiney died after 71 days on hunger strike in Brixton prison. His death on October 25th, 1920 brought worldwide attention to the Irish struggle for independence.

Portraits of both lord mayors have been distributed to all primary schools in the city.


The burning of Cork on December 12th, 1920 was one of the most infamous episodes of the War of Independence when British forces ran amok in the city and destroyed much of the business area.

Kilmichael outside Cork city was also the sight of the largest ambush of the war when the IRA shot dead 16 Auxiliaries on November 28th, 1920.

Cork's role in 1920 will be acknowledged when the Government launches its centenary programme in the city on Thursday with Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan in attendance.

Cllr Sheehan said the city's commemoration programmes will begin on January 30th with the centenary of the election of the city's first republican-dominated council. It pledged allegiance to Dáil Éireann.

He stressed that the county’s commemorations will shy away from a “black and white historical narrative” and will also involve those the descendents of those who opposed Irish independence at the time.

The chair of the Government's advisory group on commemorations Dr Maurice Manning said it was appropriate that Cork events should be organised locally rather than at state level.

It was in keeping with the principles as outlined in the advisory committee’s recommendations that local communities should take the lead in commemorations.

Looking further ahead he said the centenary of the creation of Northern Ireland in 2021 will be marked by an academic conference that year in Queens University Belfast (QUB) looking at the impact of partition both in Ireland and in other countries that were partitioned in the post-war settlement.

There is also a commitment in principle by the Government to have a study of what happened to the Protestants on the southern side and Catholics in the north after partition and to have a cultural centre in one of the border countries.

The centre arose out of a proposal by the former minister for heritage Heather Humphreys for a museum to mark the contribution of southern Protestants to the Irish State. That brief has been expanded to include northern nationalists.

There will be a big event to mark the centenary of the Truce which ended the War of Independence. The event planned for July 11th, 2021 coincidently is also the national day of commemoration.

Dr Manning said the foundation of the Irish State will be marked by two events scheduled for January 2022 and December of that year

The first will mark the handover of power from the British to Irish which occurred at Dublin Castle on January 16th 1922; the second will mark the coming into being of the Irish Free State on December 6th, 1922.

The decade of centenaries will end with an event in September 2023 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Irish Free State’s entry into the League of Nations.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times