Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

3 July 1997 Edition

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Remembering the past: The Four Courts attack

At seven minutes past four on the morning of 28 June 1922 Free State forces under pressure from Britain over the assassination on 22 June of Sir Henry Wilson, military advisor to the Unionist regime in the Six Counties, shelled the Four Courts which had been occupied by Republican troops since 13 April.

The shelling of the Four Courts began a terrible and dark episode in Irish history. Hope had remained high that the joint effort by Michael Collins and Rory O'Connor of shipping guns to the Six Counties with the intent of mounting a joint offensive against the Unionist government would unite all comrades once again, but this was not to be.

The first shots fired from the 18 pounder pieces of British Army artillery were from the junction of Bridgefoot Street and Usher's Quay. The operation was under the command of Emmet Dalton and Tom Ennis who had called for the Executive Council in the Four Courts to surrender, which they refused to do.

The Four Courts garrison consisted of 180 men and an Executive Council of 16. They were Liam Lynch, Rory O'Connor, Liam Mellows, Joe McKelvey, Ernie O'Malley, Sean Moylan, Frank Barret, Liam Deasy, Tom Hales, Tom Maguire, Joe O'Connor, Peadar O'Donnell, Florrie O'Donoghue, Sean O'Hegarty, Seamus Robinson and PJ Rutledge. They had considered withdrawing to the country but on Rory O'Connor's advice they decided to remain in the capital as a symbol of the Republic. When the bombardment began Lynch, Hales, Florrie O'Donoghue and O'Hegarty were not present.

The first shots fired did not hit their target but, ironically, landed in the headquarters of the British under Gerald Macready from where the guns had been borrowed. The bombardment continued every 15 minutes for three days.

A proclamation from the Executive Council called on all former comrades to ``return to that allegiance and thus guard the nation's honour from the infamous stigma that her sons, aided her foes, in returning a hateful domination over her''. This was published in the Poblacht na hEireann newspaper at the request of Rory O'Connor. The following day the Four Courts garrison surrendered. They were marched off to various prisons and while being marched off five managed to escape and played an important role in the months ahead: Ernie O'Malley, commandant of the first Eastern Division; Paddy O'Brien, O/C of the Four Courts until he was injured, Joe Griffith, Director of Intelligence; Paddy Rigney and Sean Lemass.

During the bombardment and fighting three Volunteers lost their lives, Joe Considine, Sean Cusack and Thomas Wall, all members of the garrison. Many more women and women would lose their lives on both sides in the following months in this sad episode in Irish history which began in earnest 75 years ago last week.

By Wayne Sugg

Starting next week

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Famine
a 12-part history by Aengus O Snodaigh

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