Sinn Féin councillor denies boycott of commemoration for gardaí

City council commemorations committee chair did not go to plaque unveiling

Sinn Féin has been accused of snubbing a Dublin City Council event to commemorate two gardaí killed in the line of duty more than 80 years ago.

A party councillor has denied there was a "boycott" of the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to Det Sgt Patrick McKeown and Det Garda Richard Hyland, who were shot by IRA members Patrick McGrath and Thomas Harte during a raid in Rathmines on August 16th, 1940.

McGrath and Harte were tried, found guilty and shot by a firing squad just over two weeks later. They were the first IRA members executed by the State since the Irish Civil War, which ended almost 20 years earlier.

The council this week unveiled the plaque at 97A Rathgar Road, which is where the gardaí were shot, and the event was attended by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.


The decision to erect the memorial was made by the council’s commemorations and naming committee, which was established as part of the national Decade of Centenaries programme. However, the chair of the committee, Sinn Féin councillor Micheál MacDonncha, did not attend the event.

Fine Gael councillor Paddy McCartan said Mr MacDonncha’s decision not to attend was “disrespectful” and “embarrassing” and had surprised those in attendance.

‘Not sour grapes’

"Normal protocol is for the Lord Mayor and the chair of the commemorations committee to attend these events, or to have someone deputise for them," Mr McCartan said. "Cllr Mary Freehill deputised for the Lord Mayor, but Cllr MacDonncha didn't turn up and neglected to send a deputy."

Mr McCartan pointed out that three of the 10 councillors on the committee are Sinn Féin members.

“He could have asked one of his own colleagues. There are enough of them on the committee, or I would have spoken if he had done me the courtesy of asking me or letting me know he wasn’t going to be there. I would have been happy to speak on behalf of the committee,” he said.

Mr McCartan, who is the sole Fine Gael member on the committee, said it was “not sour grapes on my behalf” that he did not have the opportunity to speak, but he expected there would have been a speech on behalf of the committee.

‘Embarrassing snub’

“It was noticed that there was nobody speaking on behalf of the committee and it was frankly an embarrassing snub. This was an important event, and it was disrespectful for Cllr MacDonncha not to go or to ask someone to speak on his behalf.”

Mr MacDonncha said he had not been scheduled to attend the event.

“I was not scheduled to be at it and I had given my apologies.”

He said he and Sinn Féin had not snubbed the event. “There is no question of a boycott here. That is just not the case, and I wouldn’t like to see anyone making mischief out of this.”

He said the committee had agreed to erect the plaque and he had no issues with that.

“Two gardaí died in the course of their duties. Two republicans were also executed and we would pay tribute to them. Due to the political and legal regime at the time they didn’t receive justice,” he said “They were subjected to summary justice.”

When asked if there should be a plaque to the two republicans, he said they were “honoured in their own way”.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times