Hero of Irish revolution remembered with new biography

Tadhg Barry’s name lost within months of death in smoke of the Civil War

He was the last high profile victim of the British forces during the War of Independence and 250,000 people lined the streets of Dublin for his funeral only for him to fade from public consciousness but Cork republican, Tadhg Barry is about to be remembered now with a new biography.

Dr Donal O Drisceoil of the School of History at UCC describes Tadhg Barry as "a forgotten hero" and poses the question why someone, who was such a charismatic figure in the fight for Irish independence, could be so forgotten 100 years on from his death in an internment camp in Co Down.

"Barry's death was a huge but subsequently largely forgotten event in Ireland - a Pathe newsreel, A Patriot's Last Journey, captures a 'Who's who' of republican leaders following his coffin in Dublin including Michael Collins and Cathal Brugha who would soon become civil war enemies and victims," says Dr O Drisceoil.

"Dublin city came to a halt as a quarter of a million people – half the city's population – lined the streets and the Dublin IRA had its last full mobilisation of some 5,000 men before the Treaty split while the scale of Barry's funeral in Cork echoed those of his comrades, Mac Curtain and MacSwiney."



Dr O’Drisceoil argues that Mr Barry’s fading from the public consciousness instead of his anticipated entry into the pantheon of Irish republican martyrs was largely due to the timing of his death when he was fatally shot by a sentry at Ballykinlar Internment Camp in Co Down on November 15th 1921.

“The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed three weeks to the day after his death and this quickly monopolised attention – the united movement which elevated him to hero/martyr status was quickly ripped asunder in the Treaty split and his name became lost in the smoke of civil war.”

Now Dr O'Drisceoil has helped reclaim Barry from that oblivion with his biography Utter Disloyalist – Tadhg Barry and The Irish Revolution which details not just his role as an Irish Volunteer and Sinn Féin activist but also his role as a trade unionist in the ITGWU and an innovator in the GAA.

Mr Barry was born on February 25th, 1880 and grew on Blarney Street on Cork's northside, attending the North Monastery whose other alumni included MacCurtain, MacSwiney and Cork IRA leader, Sean O'Hegarty and he worked in the nearby Eglington Asylum before emigrating to England in 1903.

Upon his return to Cork, he immersed himself in the cultural and political life of the city, becoming active in the GAA, the Celtic Literary Society, the Gaelic League, the IRB and Sinn Féin.

Mr Barry was a founder member of the Irish Volunteers in Cork in 1913 and split with O’Brien over his support for the British when the first World War broke out and although he was frustrated by the confusion over Cork’s nonparticipation in the Easter Rising, he avoided arrest until December 1916.


Mr Barry will be remembered in his native Cork on the 100th anniversary of his death on Monday when the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Colm Kelleher will officiate at a number of events including the unveiling of a plaque at Mr Barry's former home at 54 Blarney Street.

Other commemorative events include the laying of a wreath by Cllr Kelleher at Mr Barry's grave in the Republican Plot at St Finbarr's where lies beside McCurtain and MacSwiney and the official opening of The Tadhg Barry Exhibition at the Cork City & County Archives on Great William O'Brien St in Blackpool.

Meanwhile Dr O'Drisceoil has provided an interview with Cork Mother Jones Committee member Ann Piggott about Barry which will be broadcast during the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival while it will also screen on Cork Community TV on November 26th together with a documentary Tadhg Barry Remembered.

Utter Disloyalist – Tadhg Barry and The Irish Revolution is published by Mercier Press

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times