Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil clash over claims of ‘paramilitary’ uniforms at Youghal parade

Flag-bearers were wearing flute band uniforms, SF spokesman insists after TD accuses them of wearing black paramilitary uniforms

A heated row has flared up between Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin over uniforms worn at an event in Youghal, Co Cork, to commemorate the centenary of two anti-Treaty IRA soldiers executed by the Free State in 1923.

At a Sinn Féin commemoration in recent weeks to mark the 100th anniversary of the deaths of Paddy O’Reilly and Michael Fitzgerald, the colour party and flag bearers wore black jackets and black berets. The event was attended by Cork East TD Pat Buckley.

Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe claimed that photographs of the event depicted “Sinn Féin deputies walking down the streets alongside men in paramilitary uniforms”.

“It is insulting to the men and women who protect our country and don that uniform, and some who have even lost their lives defending Ireland,” he said on Thursday.


“There is only one army in Ireland,” Mr Crowe added.

However, Sinn Féin described Mr Crowe’s attack as “shocking” and emphatically rejected his claim that the colour party was wearing paramilitary uniforms.

They were shot by a firing squad in Waterford on January 25th, 1923, despite a petition and hundreds of pleas for clemency

“The flag-bearers are clearly wearing the uniform of the Tomás Mac Curtain/Terence MacSwiney flute band from Cork,” said a spokesman.

“This was a commemorative event held locally in Youghal to mark the 100th anniversaries of Paddy O’Reilly and Michael Fitzgerald, who were executed by the Free State on the 25th January, 1923.

Firing squad

“It is shocking that someone who purports to call himself a republican would criticise dignified, respectful commemorative events held in honour of those executed by the Free State during the course of the Civil War,” added the spokesman.

O’Reilly and Fitzgerald were local men from Youghal and were both 24 when executed. They were members of the Cork No 1 IRA Brigade and were captured near a safe house in Co Waterford by Free State forces in December 1922.

They were shot by a firing squad in Waterford on January 25th, 1923, despite a petition and hundreds of pleas for clemency.

Mr Crowe, a deputy for Clare, was speaking in the Dáil where he requested that Minister for Defence Micheál Martin ban the wearing of paramilitary-type uniforms.

He claimed such occasions distorted what was already a very divided history.

Turning to Sinn Féin defence spokesman John Brady, he said: “If you are opposition spokesman on defence you cannot be talking for one army and standing and marching down the streets with another.”

Mr Brady did not specifically respond to the charge.

Later Mr Crowe said: “How can they have a spokesperson on defence, speaking for rank-and-file members of Óglaigh na hÉireann, when their deputies are happy to parade on streets with troops of men in paramilitary uniforms?”

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times