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2 February 2015 Edition

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Leitrim’s Republican Story – A Tale worth telling

LEITRIM is one of those places in republican history that some can contend to be ‘pound for pound’ the most republican county on this island. Some may disagree but the evidence would suggest otherwise, according to historian and former Irish Press Editor Tim Pat Coogan, who launched Leitrim’s Republican Story in Carrick-on-Shannon.

Leitrim’s Republican Story is a massive publication that chronicles the unwavering contribution of a Border county that has played a pivotal role in republican affairs down through the centuries.  

In the aftermath of the Armada in 1588, the local O’Rourke chieftain offered safe sanctuary to Spaniards who had been shipwrecked off the coasts. A few years later, following the Battle of Kinsale (1601), Letirim again offered safe sanctuary, this time to O’Sullivan Beare following his march from Glengarriff. In the aftermath of the Battle of the Diamond, Armagh (1795), Leitrim was once more the refuge for fleeing Catholics and many of Northern descent would settle there permanently. 

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When French forces came to Ireland in 1798 for the United Irishmen’s rebellion they too passed through Leitrim and picked up many combatants en-route before the ill-fated Battle of Ballinamuck. 

The county was also one of the worst affected by the Famine and, in terms of the Land League, it was also prominent. 

All of this served as an important prelude to the role the county played in the last century: 

Sinn Féin’s first national election was in North Leitrim in 1908. 

Kiltyclogher native Seán MacDiarmada ‘master-minded’ the 1916 Easter Rising.

Played its part in the Tan War and Civil War, including the loss of six IRA Volunteers at Selton Hill in March 1921.

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•  Republicans after their release from Mountjoy and Arbour Hill jails in March 1932; Leitrim's Seán O'Farrell is third from right in centre row

Aughnasheelin native John Joe McGirl led the county’s involvement in republican affairs throughout the 1930s to the 1980s.

Was a key location for the military efforts during the Border Campaign of the 1950s and the more recent campaign from 1969 onwards. 

The book represents the first publication emanating from the 26 Counties (Tyrone’s Struggle by Gerard Magee was first in the Six Counties) which gives a comprehensive account of republicanism, its origins and its history. It is currently available in the Sinn Féin bookshop online or at Parnell Square.

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