July 24th, 1924


FROM THE ARCHIVES:Three masked Free State army officers beat two young women with their Sam Browne belts and rubbed grease in their hair near the end of the Civil War in a murky incident in Kerry which became known as the “Kenmare Case”. It caused a major row within the cabinet and the resignation of the senior officer allegedly involved, Maj Gen Paddy O’Daly, but no one was prosecuted. The case was raised by Labour leader Tom Johnson in the Dáil a year after it happened.

MR. JOHNSON quoted from the newspaper Éire a statement which, he said, was the first time that an allegation had been made public in regard to the matter. It was stated that two ladies, daughters of a local medical practitioner , had been dragged out of their beds by four Free State officers, brought into the garden in their night attire, and flogged with belts. Their hair was smeared with cart grease.

The next morning, an investigation having taken place, a lieutenant found in the grounds a revolver which was declared to be the property of Major General O’Daly. A deputation from the town, including the Free State Solicitor, went to Dublin the following day and the Minister for Home Affairs was interviewed. General [Richard] Mulcahy was sent for and informed of the allegations, and directed to place under arrest some of the officers who were in Dublin on leave. He undertook to do so. The matter came before the Executive Council, who ordered that an inquiry should take place, but when the courtmartial met there was no one to give evidence as all the witnesses had been rushed to different parts of the country, and the whole thing collapsed.

It had been stated in the Dáil, said Mr. Johnson, in defence of that inaction, that the legal advisers had decided that there was not sufficient evidence to bring the matter into court. The allegation that witnesses who were to have given evidence had been dispersed and made unavailable was, to his mind, one that would have to be answered. The House would want to know what had been done for the ladies who had been maltreated

He asked for a statement from the minister responsible, and from the minister for defence on the refusal of the Executive Council to publish the report of the Chairman of the Army Inquiry Committee and the evidence.

President [WT] Cosgrave said that the Executive had had the case – or rather some allegations concerning this case – under consideration, and the relative files and documents had been sent to the Attorney-General for his advice. The Executive Council had acted on that advice, and there the responsibility of the Executive Council began and ended. If the Executive Council had not taken the advice of the law adviser it would have had to get rid of him. In that case they had taken that advice, and it was not intended to publish the advice that was given to them.