(Author Sam McGrath has previously examined the fatal shooting of IRA member Peter McCarthy on Lower Clanbrassil Street in 1937 and the killing of another young republican Jackie Griffith near Merrion Square in 1943)


On 24 May 1950, 17-year-old Patrick Murray was accidentally shot dead in the backyard of the headquarters of the Republican Prisoners’ Release Association in Dublin. At his funeral in Glasnevin Cemetery the teenager’s coffin was “draped with a tricolour” and was “accompanied by a guard of honour of the deceased’s former comrades”. His recently restored headstone describes him as “Vol. Padraíg Murray” attached to the Dublin IRA.

However, his name is not included any republican roll of honour including a list of 1936-1963 deaths published by Sinn Féin in 1966 or The Last Post (1972 edition). There is also no mention of his death in any of the major studies of the IRA in the period (J Bower Bell, Donnacha Ó Beacháin etc.), any of the books which cover the Border Campaign era (Barry Flynn, Matt Treacy etc.) or any of the memoirs from Dublin IRA men who were active in the early 1950s (Mick Ryan, Éamonn Boyce etc.).


Patrick Mary Lorenzo Murray, also known as Pádraig Murray, was born in Dublin in 1933. His father, John Murray, a 37-year-old carpenter, had died on 18 September 1932 in the Richmond Hospital of “bronchiectasis pneumococcal meningitis” according to his death certificate. His address at the time was 54 Walsh Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 9.

By the 1940s, the Murray family was living at 51 St Joseph’s Place in the Dorset Street area of the North Inner City. Patrick lived with his mother Mary, two brothers Sean and Philip and two sisters Maura/Máire and Ellen [tbc]. St Joseph’s Place comprises of seven parallel rows of redbrick terraced cottages (one or two bedrooms) within a U-shaped perimeter avenue. They are accessible via Nelson Street, Blessington Street and Upper Dorset Street (beside the Findlater public house). Built by the Dublin Artisan’s Dwellings Company in the 1890s for renting to working-class tradesmen, they were bought out by Dublin Corporation in the 1920s.

In April 1946, Belfast man James McCorry (or McCurry) (25) was sentenced to six months imprisonment for firearms offences in the Special Criminal Court. He gave his Dublin address as 51 St Joseph’s Place which indicates that the Murray home was a safe house for Belfast IRA men who were involved in IRA re-organising work in the capital. A Mrs J McCurry was listed as a sister of Patrick Murray in a 1950 report on his funeral which suggests that James McCurry later married Patrick Murray’s sister. A 13-year-old Patrick Murray would have been undoubtedly affected by the republcian activities of his future brother-in-law and may have helped shape his own politics.

Republican Prisoners’ Release Association, 9 North Frederick Street

The Republican Prisoners’ Release Association (RPRA) was established in October 1945 by long-standing IRA veterans including Maurice Twomey, Jim Killeen and Simon Donnelly (who had been inactive since the Civil War). At the time, there were 80 republicans in jail in Belfast, 40 in England and 30 in the 26 Counties. Other figures associated with the group included Peadar Cowan, Sean MacBride and Con Lehane. The organisation had 29 branches across the island by early 1948 as reported in the Dublin Evening Mail (30 January 1948).

The organisation had offices at 9 North Frederick Street from at least 1946 which it shared with other groups (sharing an overlapping membership and support base) including the Easter Commemoration Committee (1946), the Harry White Defence Fund (1946) and the National Commemoration Committee (1949). By mid 1950, there were only a very small number of IRA prisoners left in Belfast jails (including Liam Burke and Jimmy Steele) which left the release and welfare organisations largely defunct.

IRA activity

The death of Patrick Murray in 1950 occurred in a decade-long gap of major IRA activity between the end of the Northern Campaign (1942 – 1946) and the start of The Border Campaign (1956 – 1962). Due to state harassment, arrests, emigration and internal infighting, the Republican movement was at one of its lowest ebbs. According to Bowyer Bell in The Secret Army (pg 296), the Dublin IRA was the “strongest” unit in the country in 1950 but only had 40 members, divided into two companies which could seldom parade more than a dozen men each. (The IRA did re-organise in late 1950 and grow under the direction of Tony Magan but this did not start until after Murray’s death.)

Although the Dublin IRA was small in the late 1940s and early 1950s period, there was still a turnover of membership of young men from overwhelmingly working-class backgrounds. They included Tom Mitchell (later MP etc), of Inverness Road in Fairview who joined the IRA in 1949, Éamonn Mac Thomáis, of Goldenbridge in Inchciore, who joined in c. 1950; Eamonn Boyce, of Galtymore Road in Drimnagh, who joined in 1952, Peter Pringle, of Woodfield Cottages in Inchicore, who also joined in 1952, and Mick Ryan, of East Wall, who joined in 1954.

Who was in charge of the Dublin IRA when Patrick Murray was active in its orbit in early 1950? J Bowyer Bell (pg 286) states that Sean Sheehy replaced William McGuinness when the latter was promoted to Chief of Staff in 1947. Gearóid Ó Broin presumably took the place of Sheehy as Ó Broin was described as “O/C of the Dublin unit of the IRA in the early 1950s” in Éamon Boyce’s Insider (pg 11). He was replaced by Éamonn Mac Thomáis who held the position from 1952 to mid-1956 according to Insider. So it’s likely that Sean Sheehy or Gearóid Ó Broin were head of the IRA’s Dublin in summer 1950.

In mid 1950, Patrick Murray was 17 and a half and worked as a carpenter’s apprentice. His best friend and close neighbour was Eamonn Deegan who lived at 2 Brennan’s Cottages, rere of 114 Upper Dorset Street, which was about five minutes walk (400m) from Murray’s home. The pair both lived less than a five-minute walk from 9 North Frederick Street which was an important social hub and meeting point for republicans in the city.

What events did Patrick Murray possibly attend in the year or so before his death? He might have been one of the 500 revellers at a céilidh in the Mansion House on 11 February 1949 organised by the Republican Prisoners’ Release Association. The two most important republican commemorations in the year were to mark the anniversary of Easter Rising (April) and Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown (June). The National Commemoration Committee’s 1916 Easter Commemoration took place on 17 April 1949. A procession with a colour party and pipe bands marched from St Stephen’s Green to Glasnevin Cemetery headed by the “Dublin Battalion IRA” followed by contingents from Cumann na mBan, Clan na Gaedheal (Republican Girl Guides), Na Fianna Éireann, Sinn Féin, the National Graves Association and Cumann na Poblachta. A wreath was laid on the republican plot by J Dunne (Chairman, NCC) and a decade of the rosary was recited in Irish by Michael O’Neill. A statement from the IRA was read by Cristóir O’Neill (Christy O’Neill) and the main oration was given by Sean McGrath who told the crowd: “The Army and the physical force movement … appeal to all young men and women to come again into the ranks and carry on the fight begun in 1916 which carried on in 1919 and 1922 and bring it to fruition”. (The Irish Press, 18 April 1949).

The NCC were also the organisers of the Wolfe Tone commemoration at Bodenstown Cemetery, Sallins, County Kildare on 19 June 1949. Wreaths were laid by Micheál Mac Conbuidhe (Michael Conway) (Secretary, NCC) and Margaret Buckley (Sinn Féin). Thousands listened to the main oration by Cristóir O’Neill (Christy O’Neill) who appealed to the crowd:
“I appeal to all the young men who are willing to fight for their country’s freedom and their own salvation to come into the IRA … take your stand with the men who have never ceased to resist the invader … there are some people … unsuited to a military organisation by reason of sex, age or temperament. Sinn Féin, the Republican civil organisation, caters for these”. A meeting was held afterwards addressed by Emmett McGinn (Clann na nGaedhel, Philadelphia) with J Dunne (Chairman, NCC) acting as chief steward.

Just six weeks before Patrick Murray’s death, the NCC’s 1916 Easter Commemoration parade on 09 April 1950 at Glasnevin Cemetery was addressed outside the gates by Tomas Óg MacCurtain (1915-1994) who was a member of the IRA Army Council. Murray may have been part of the 1,000 strong who were told by MacCurtain that the IRA “stood for the aims and objects for which those who had died in arms had stood. It was not their duty to pay attention to politicians who thought that paragraphs in American or French Press would free Ireland. The struggle would be a struggle in Ireland by Irishmen with guns in their hands”. (The Irish Press, 10 April 1950). Anthony McGann [Magan] (1910-1981), IRA Chief of Staff from 1948 to 1957, read a statement issued by IRA General Headquarters (GHQ) which reminded the crowd that: “It is for the ordinary people to Ireland to ensure that those who are pledged to freedom by force of arms are not misled by the politicians who are bankrupt of everything except promises” (The Belfast Newsletter, 10 April 1950).

Evening of shooting

On the evening of 24 May 1950, Patrick Murray and Eamonn Deegan had a few drinks in a local pub before going to 9 North Frederick Street at about 10pm. In subsequent testimony and statements, it transpired that the pair were in the toilet in the yard in the rear of the building examing a .38 automatic pistol. Deegan later said that he believed the safety catch was on when he pulled the trigger of the weapon. At about 10.25pm, witnesses heard the gun go off and Murray was accidentally shot at close range. It was reported by the Irish Press (25 May 1950) that there were “three other young men with Murray at the time of the shooting” but no further information about the identities of the men – besides Deegan – was subsequently revealed.

Deegan admitted in a later statement that he lifted Murray from the yard into the hall and then dumped the gun in a nearby laneway. He claimed that he returned to try to help his friend but saw an ambulance outside and left the scene in a frenzied state Miss Nancy Berry, of 151 Mount Pleasant Buildings in Ranelagh, ran an Irish dance class in one of the back rooms of the building which was in progress at the time of the shooting. Her students heard a loud bang and came out of the room to investigate. Maureen McNamara, of 8 Annamoe Terrace in Cabra, saw:

“…. a man [Murray] coming from the toilet in the yard. He came into her view, but stepped out of view again. She then saw him coming towards her again and she noticed him falling. Later she saw another man [Eamonn] coming from the same direction … this second man knelt down beside the man on the ground and then dragged [him] … towards the house.”The Evening Herald, 22 June 1950

The classes’ piano player Thomas Dullaghan, of 13 McKee Barracks, found Murray “lying on his back” and “groaning” in the hallway. He asked Murray what had happened but received no reply. Dullaghan telephoned for an ambulance and the police at Fitzgibbon Street. He also picked up one of Murray’s shoes which had fallen off while he was being dragged into the building.

The Irish Press reported that Murray was “shot through the back under the left shoulder” and the body was found “lying face down in a pool of blood in the hallway leading from the yard to the hall door”. Patrick Murray was taken to the Mater Hospital in a Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance and was pronounced dead on arrival at 10.40pm by Dr Joseph Greenan.

The building at 9 North Frederick Street was searched by a large number of police under the command of Chief Superintendent Jim O’Neill and they interviewed numerous people who were in the premises or attending the Irish dance lesson. During the search of the building, they found an empty cartridge case in the garden area.

At about 2.30am in the morning, Station Sergeant Timothy Hurley of Fitzgibbon Street Police Station stated that Eamonn Deegan walked into the station and placed a pistol on the counter. (This suggests that he retrieved the firearm which he said he had dumped in a laneway or that he possibly never got rid of the gun in the first place.) Hurley described the scene:

There was an unnatural flush on his face. He was restless and turned his head from side to side. He then turned to face me and I took up the pistol. The safety catch was off and I pulled back the elector but there was no bullet in the breech. I emptied the magazine and found three live bullets in it. When I removed the last bullet the elector got caught in the platform of the magazine and I handed the gun to [Deegan] who took out the magazine”.

Deegan was charged with unlawful possession of a .38 automatic pistol and five rounds of .38 ammunition with intent to endanger life and possession of the firearm without a licence. After being cautioned, he gave a verbal statement which a Garda put in writing but Deegan did not sign it. Inspector R Kingston said that he took possession of a bloodstained jacket and trousers worn by Deegan.

The police searched the body of Patrick Murray in the accident ward of the Mater Hospital and found three live rounds of ammunition in the hip pocket of his trousers.

Deegan was represented by solicitor Captain Peadar Cowan who said that the young man was “very badly shocked” by the “regrettable accident” and there was no request for bail. (Peadar Cowan had taken the pro-Treaty side in the Civil War but while studying to become a solicitor, joined the left-wing republican group Saor Éire (1931) and was associated with the Republican Congress movement (1934). He was active with the left-wing republican party Clann na Poblachta from its foundation 1946 until he was expelled in 1948. It has been reported that Cowan tried to mobilise a new armed group in early 1950 to “take Northern Ireland by force, but he failed to win popular support and the plan came to nothing”.)


The newspaper death notice stated that Murray was “accidentally shot dead”. His funeral mass took place at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Berkeley Road on Saturday 27 May 1950. The Evening Herald reported a “large attendance” at the funeral in Glasnevin Cemetery including chief mourners Mrs Mary Murray (mother), Sean and Philip (brothers), Maura/Máire (sister), Mrs J McCorry (sister) and Mrs S Murray (sister in law). A Mrs M Hickey and Miss M Hickey were also in attendance. Patrick Murray was buried at grave EJ 248.5 in the St Patrick’s Section, Glasnevin Cemetery.

The Dublin Evening Mail was the only newspaper which reported on the obvious republican trappings of the funeral. They said that Murray’s coffin was “draped with a tricolour” and was “accompanied by a guard of honour of the deceased’s former comrades”. There was also a large procession of the public, Na Fianna Éireann and “Girl Guides” [Clann na nGael Republican Girl Scouts]. The same newspaper suggested that a “dance was being held on the premises” but they probably are referring to the Irish dance class which was taking place on the evening. However, it is true the building did also host social events and céilidh’s.


The inquest, held on 01 June 1950, was opened and adjourned by Dr DA MacErlean, Dublin City Coroner. Philip Murray, brother of the deceased, identified the body. Dr John McGrath, State Pathologist, said the post-mortem revealed that the bullet entered Murray’s back and was fired at close range. The bullet hit his left lung and penetrated the heart resulting in death due to shock and haemorrhage. The bullet was removed and handed it over to the police. Mr Walter Carroll, Chief State Solicitor’s Office, asked for an adjournment due to the fact that Deegan was being held in custody.


On 26 June 1950 at the Dublin District Court, solicitor Peadar Cowan agreed that “there was evidence that the deceased died as a result of a bullet wound fired from an automatic pistol” in Deegan’s possession but there was “no evidence in the case to substantiate culpable negligence, or criminality or recklessness” on Deegan’s part.

At some stage over the next six months, Eamonn changed his representation from Peadar Cowan to The O’Rahilly of the solicitors firm of Con Lehane. Richard ‘Mac’ O’Rahilly was a son of The O’Rahilly who was killed in action in 1916. He was a founder member of the Clann na Poblachta, became its treasurer and stood twice unsuccessfully in elections for the party in 1951 and 1952. Con Lehane was also associated with Clann na Poblachta and was a leading Dublin IRA member in the 1930s.

Evidence was given in Central Criminal Court in December 1950 that Deegan had been convicted in February 1946 of two cases of larceny and housebreaking and sentenced to two years in St. Conleth’s Reformatory School in Daingean, County Offaly. Upon release, he had worked for two years as a moulder’s apprentice but had been unemployed since Christmas 1949.

Deegan changed his plea to guilty and the State said they would enter a ‘nolle proseque’ “on the charge of having the pistol and ammunition with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property”. Justice Dixon said he “found it a difficult case to deal with because conduct of this kind should be punished and people had to be deterred from behaving in this reckless and careless manner.” In the hope that he might do Deegan more good than sending him to prison, Judge Dixon imposed a suspended sentence of twelve months imprisonment on the manslaughter charge and two months on the illegal possession of the pistol and ammunition. Deegan entered into a bond on personal bail of £50 of good behaviour for two years and was discharged from the court.

Legacy and postscript

Presumably to avoid giving the Republican movement any publicity, the police and the state’s legal team in court seemed to downplay any political connections to the shooting and the two young men involved. One of the few references comes buried in an article in the Irish Independent (23 June 1950) when Mrs Margaret Coughlan, of 9 North Frederick Street, told the Dublin District Court at Deegan’s first trial that she knew both men and said that they attended meetings of the National Commemoration Committee together. Coughlan said they “were on friendly terms … and were always together”. Patrick Coughlan, husband of Margaret, agreed that the two youths “were very pally”.

In a short piece titled “Boy Who Shot Best Friend” in the Irish Independent (01 Dec 1950), Mr Justice Dixon was quoted as saying that the “tragic” case was a result of “the accused’s best friend … play-acting or fooling … with a loaded pistol”. While this is generally a truthful description, the language used stresses an angle of two silly young boys acting foolishly with a gun. The incident could have equally been framed by others as two young Republicans examing a weapon when it went off accidentally.

The facts remain Patrick Muray was killed while handling firearms in the premises of the Republican Prisoners’ Release Association which had close associations to the wider republican movement. The evidence available suggests this was likely not an official arms training class of any sort as the two young men had been in the pub together earlier and a toilet would have been an inadequate and small space for such important and potentially dangerous activity.

Regarding the political dimensions to the shooting, it is crucial that the Dublin Evening Press reported that the coffin at the funeral was draped with a tricolour and that there was a “guard of honour” of his “former comrades”. The same piece described that units of Na Fianna Éireann and “Girl Guides” [Clann na nGael Republican Girl Scouts] were present at the burial. This was clearly the funeral of a young active republican. Although it should also be noted there were no reports of an oration, the Last Post being sounded or any volleys being fired into the air over the grave. While there were reports of a large attendance it is unclear which Republican leaders (if any) attended the funeral.

One important bit of evidence to verify Patick Muray’s IRA connections is that his family were very comfortable in calling him a “Volunteer” on his headstone and a member of the Dublin IRA. The fresh-looking gravestone was probably erected following the death of Patrick’s sister Máire in 2011. It would be very interesting to see any photographs of the former headstone from the time of Patrick’s death in 1950.

The only missing ‘link’ is the absence of memorial notices in any of the newspapers in the years after the death from his family or former comrades. He is also not listed in any republican rolls of honour as “accidentally shot while training” (or something similar) like in the case of IRA Volunteer Christy Bird who died in Dublin in May 1939. A friend was able to check the June 1950 issue of The United Irishman newspaper and there is no mention of Patrick Murray. As he died in late May 1950, you would imagine that the June 1950 issue would be the edition where there would have been a memorial notice or funeral report. The United Irishman was the only Irish republican newspaper published in the 1950 period.

Another bit of corroboration that the two young men were associated with the IRA was the fact that Éamonn Degan was legally represented by Captain Peadar Cowan and later The O’Rahilly (Richard ‘Mac’ O’Rahilly) of the Con Lehane solicitors firm. As previously mentioned, Cowan and Lehane had strong IRA associations in the 1930s and 1940s. Both men, as well as the O’Rahilly, were active with Clann na Poblachta.

Eamonn Deegan continued his connections with the IRA and it is important to note that he was listed as one of the 64 “active” members of the Dublin Brigade IRA in attendance at the September 1951 unveiling of the Sean Russell statue in Fairview Park. This certainly proves Deegan’s IRA status and gives a lot of credibility to any claim that Murray was an IRA member or, at the very least, a close associate. In March 1953, Eamonn Deegan was found not guilty to charges of firearms possession. His brother, John, took responsibility for a cache of arms found in his workshop which was next door to the family cottage. The haul included a .300 American service rifle, a .32 revolver, an automatic pistol, 37 rounds of ammunition, five Mills hand grenades, two pistol holsters, one ammunition pouch, gunpowder, gelignite, detonators and fuses. John Deegan gave evidence that he did not know that the material was in the workshop and when they were found by the police “thought that this brother might have had something to do with them and accepted responsibility in order to protect him” as reported the Irish Press (29 April 1953). He was sentenced to nine months imprisonment.

The building at 9 North Frederick Street continued to be an important address for the Republican Movement in Dublin. In the 1950s it was the address for the Sean Russell Memorial Committee (that erected the Fairview statue), the Jackie Griffith Cumann of Sinn Féin (1955) and republican prisoner relief organisations after the Omagh Barracks Raid in 1954. The building was host to the Na Fianna Éireann ardfheis in May 1955. John O’Neill (The Treason Felony blog) has checked the report in the June 1955 issue of The United Irishman but there was no mention or acknowledgement of the fifth anniversary of Patrick Murray’s death.

Patrick Murray was the first Irish republican in Dublin who was killed in action, or while handling arms, since Jackie Griffith in 1943. The next individuals were Liam Walsh (Saor Éire) in October 1970 in a premature explosion; Peter Graham (Saor Éire) shot dead in an internal dispute in October 1971 and Jack McCabe (Provisional IRA) in a premature explosion in December 1971. The coroner ruled it as an accident but some believe that Paddy McLogan’s death in July 1964 was suspicious. He was found shot dead in his garden in Blanchardstown with a Walther 9mm pistol and a spent cartridge beside his body.

If you have any further information on Patrick Murray or any of other people, organisations or events mentioned in this piece, please email me at matchgrams@gmail.com.

Belfast Newsletter, Dublin Evening Mail, he Evening Herald, the Irish Press, the Irish Independent, The Irish Times, t

Further reading:

Browne, David Sean. Joining the Movement: Tradition and Ideology in the IRA 1948 – 1962 (2013)
Rynne, James P. Border States: Destroying Partition and Defending the Realm, 1949-1961 (2020)

Boyce, Eamonn. The Insider: The Belfast Prison Diaries of Eamonn Boyce1956–1962, ed. Anna Bryson (Dublin, 2007)
Bowyer Bell, J. The Secret Army: A History of the IRA, 1916-1970. (London, 1972)
Flynn, Barry. Soldiers of folly (Cork, 2009)
Foley, Conor. Legion of the rearguard: the IRA and the modern Irish state (London, 1992)
Hanley Brian. Millar Scott, The lost revolution: the story of the official IRA and the Worker’s Party (Dublin, 2009)
Kelly Stephen. Fianna Fáil, partition and Northern Ireland, 1926-1971 (Dublin, 2014)
MacEoin, Uinseann. The IRA in the twilight years1923 – 1948 (Dublin, 1997)
Nic Dháibhéid, Caoimhe. Seán MacBride: A Republican Life 1904–1946 (Liverpool, 2011)
O’Neill, John. Belfast Battalion: A History of the Belfast I.R.A., 1922-1969. (Wexford, 2018)

Thanks to
John O’Neill (The Treason Felony blog)

This new map plots out the locations of almost 350 gun murders in Dublin (and neighbouring counties) relating to organised crime, anti-social elements, paramilitary feuds, robberies and raids over the last 50+ years. It was compiled independently by Sam McGrath of the Come Here To Me! blog.

To open the full map in a new tab, click here.

It began during the quiet months of the first lockdown when I set out on a project to establish how many ‘gangland’ murders have occurred in Dublin since the 1970s. No such figure was available online and I was interested in providing figures that could be compared to other cities like Glasgow, Manchester and London.

I am not interested in conjecture or trying to work out identities or motives. Descriptions of fatal shootings are short and pertinent. I also avoided the highly charged language used by tabloid newspapers. I mean no disrespect to any of the families affected by any of the fatal shootings and hope they do not feel unsettled that their loved one has been included on the map.

Information was gathered from the online archives of The Evening Herald, the Irish Independent, The Irish Press, The Irish Times and The Sunday Tribune as well relevant books by journalists Stephen Breen, Gene Kerrigan, Mick McCaffrey, Paul McWilliams, John Mooney, Paul Reynolds and Padraig Yeates.

The term ‘gangland’ murder can be problematic. I wanted to include all ‘criminal on criminal’ murders (the vast majority) but also innocent victims caught up in the crossfire and specific individuals who were killed in planned ‘hits’ but where the motive was unclear. I also included gun murders arising in conflicts between republican paramilitaries and criminal gangs; intra-republican paramilitary feuds and armed robberies. I am essentially interested in collating data about (nearly) all gun murders in Dublin that were not connected to family or relationship fallouts (husband shoots wife, brother kills father etc.)

I’ve always had a particular interest in crime, gangs and the shadowy underworld of our capital city. I’ve previously researched and published articles on a criminal street gang called the ‘Sons of Dawn‘ and a more serious outfit of armed robbers led by Claude Gunner who were both tracked down and arrested by the IRA in the early 1920s. I wrote a biography piece on Charlie Henchico, an infamous street criminal and hustler, who from the early 1940s until his death in 1968, was involved in an absurdly long list of shootings, stabbings, hatchet-attacks, house robberies, larceny, pimping and various other illegal enterprises. I’ve also dipped into the emergence of the city’s modern drugs culture in the 1960s and 1970s and the experience of Dublin during the conflict in the North of Ireland (1969-1994). I wrote two long articles on killings related to criminality/’gangland’ in the 1970s/1980s and 1990-94.

All of these subject interests, which often overlap, coalesce with the emergence of what today we call ‘gangland’. Petty young criminals in the 1960s began as prolific shoplifters and pickpockets. Many were arrested and sent to brutal industrial and reformatory schools. They emerged as hardened outlaws who turned to house burglary before elevating to armed robberies of banks, post offices and jewellery shops. It was open season for a period in the 1970s and 1980s but improved security and increased police resources resulted in a drop in armed robberies. Many gangs began to sell cannabis, and other drugs, on the side which proved to be safer work and more profitable. In 1979/80, heroin flooded Western Europe following the fall of the Shah in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Dunne family became the first major importers of the drug into working-class communities in Dublin. The colossal dividends of drug dealing led to a proliferation of gangs, guns, paranoia and turf rivalry. There were cases of criminal gangs in Dublin using firearms to injure and maim rivals in the 1960s and 1970s but they were rare. The first cases, that I could find, of criminals shooting dead fellow criminals, was in 1978 and 1979 but consumption of drink and/or drugs and personal jealousy were often the key motives. The first clear premeditated murder by a criminal gang occurred in 1980 and in 1982/83 there were three cases of rival drug dealers killing each other in Dublin.

I think for many people, certainly, my generation, the history of modern gangland carnage begins with the shooting dead of crime boss Martin Cahill (‘The General’) by the Provisional IRA in 1994 and the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin by criminals two years later. However, this research shows that there were at least 15 premeditated gangland murders and another seven killings linked to criminality that occurred in the years leading up to 1994. Drug gangs began to import large quantities of ecstasy in the early 1990s to cater for the demands of the growing rave and club scene while prevalent cocaine consumption became synonymous with the Celtic Tiger era of the mid to late 1990s. Increased demand for drugs by the middle classes generated intense competition between gangs over turf which inevitably generated violent feuds and attacks. This period also significantly coincided with the winding down of the PIRA’s armed campaign which, in some people’s minds, resulted in criminal gangs having a ‘free rein’ to operate in many working-class communities in the city. It is also worth noting that the last mass anti-drugs community campaign (COCAD) in Dublin became inactive by around 2002.

The early 2000s saw the vicious Crumlin-Drimnagh feud in Dublin which led to the deaths of about 16 people. Gun violence and feuds grew throughout the decade. The Hutch-Kinahan conflict, which has resulted in the deaths of 20 people since 2015, has made world headlines. This has coincided with a growing public appetite for fictional accounts of our local underworld with television series (Love/Hate 2010-14 and Kin 2021), films (Cardboard Gangsters 2017 and Michael Inside 2018) and a whole series of fiction and nonfiction books.

Methodology and sources
I collated the incidents by using key search terms in the newspaper archives – “shot dead”, “fatal shooting”, “gun” + “inquest” etc. Most major newspapers also compiled a list of all murders that took place in the year which was published in December or January. This was a very useful tool.

Trying to divide the murders into different areas of motive was an important but difficult task. I created two principal lists – premeditated and non-premeditated.

Within List One (dark red), I separated the murders into five different categories which I came up with myself:

Motive 1) Criminals, or individuals with links to organised crime, being killed by other criminals in a) shootings in or near their home, a pub or on the street or b) abduction cases where people were killed and their bodies dumped in secluded locations. 

Motive 2) Individuals killed by criminal gangs a) in cases of mistaken identity b) for being witnesses or c) because they were physically with the intended target at the time. In other words, the perpetrators did not have plans to kill these specific people when they set out that day but they did plan to kill somebody else.

Motive 3) Criminals, or suspected criminals, killed by republican paramilitaries. 

Motive 4) Republican paramilitaries killed by suspected criminals.

Motive 5) Individuals, who had no known involvement in serious crime, killed by criminal gangs, or others, where there are personal/paranoia/revenge motives or where the motive is unknown but it has all the hallmarks of a ‘gangland hit’.

(Note: I have included a handful of incidents where individuals, not regarded as being involved in criminality, were shot dead in revenge for rape, child molesting or manslaughter in Motive 1 instead of Motive 5.) 

List two (brown) comprises of murders that were linked to gangland/serious criminality but were not planned in advance e.g. gang fights, one on one stabbing incidents, drug deals gone wrong, individuals shot by anti-social youths etc. They are divided into two categories:

Motive 6) Criminals or anti-social youths killed by other criminals or other antisocial youths during gang fights, one on one fights, unpremeditated incidents or similar

Motive 7) Individuals, not connected to criminality, killed by criminals or antisocial youths

I also created three additional lists:

List three (green)-  individuals (nearly all criminals) who were shot by themselves or by associates by accident.

List four (dark blue) – individuals shot dead in the course of raids and robberies including security guards, garda officers and criminals themselves.

List five (black) – individuals killed during the ‘Troubles’. A mixture of republican paramilitaries killed in feuds; republican paramilitaries killed by security personnel; garda, prison officers and informers killed by republican paramilitaries. I did not include those killed in bomb attacks.

Numbers and breakdown
The research reveals that there have been 285 fatal shootings (up to 12 April 2022) – linked to criminality – where there has been premeditation to some degree. 279 were plotted on the map as the bodies of six victims have not been found – see Appendix 1.

239 of these murders took place in Dublin. I also included all ‘gangland’ murders that occurred in bordering counties Kildare (8), Meath (15) and Wicklow (11) because their active criminal gangs often include people originally from Dublin or have links (or rivalries) with Dublin criminals. I also included six murders in other counties when the murder victims were Dublin criminals.

I have not included any of the criminal feuds that have resulted in deaths in Cork, Dundalk, Drogheda, Limerick and Sligo, or mentioned any of the Irish criminals who have been killed in the Netherlands, Portugal or Spain.

For the chronological list, after some deliberation, I decided to use the date that a person was shot and wounded and not a later date that they died in hospital. I also used the date that someone went missing, or was last seen, as opposed to when their remains were found. I think this more accurately helps to understand the timeline of criminal feuds and where that person’s death fits into the bigger picture. 

Many ‘household’ names of career criminals will be recognised by readers such as Martin Cahill (‘The General’) (1994), Seamus ‘Shavo’ Hogan (2002), Martin ‘Marlo’ Hyland (2006), Eamon ‘The Don’ Dunne (2010) and the Kinahan lieutenant David Byrne (2016). Many will also recall the names of innocent victims such as journalist Veronica Guerin (1996), plumber Anthony Campbell (2006), garage employee Eddie Ward (2007) and cousins Mark Noonan and Glen Murphy (2010).

The youngest victims were Gerard Morgan (15) in 1982, Melanie McCarthy-McNamara (16) in 2012 and Patrick ‘Whacker’ Lawlor (17) in 1999. The oldest were Noel ‘Duck Egg’ Kirwan (62) in 2016, Edward Nugent (64) in 2015, Joan Casey (65) in 2004 and Eamon Kelly (65) in 2012. The average age of the 285 victims was 33 years old.

The project covers the major criminal feuds of the last 20 years in the country’s capital city:

  • The INLA vs West Dublin criminal gang feud (1999-2008?) – c. six deaths
  • Crumlin-Drimnagh feud (2002-12?) – c. 16-18 deaths
  • Westies gang fall out: Coates/Sugg faction vs. Glennon brothers faction (2003-05?) – c. four deaths
  • Sheriff St. gang fall out: Christy Griffin vs anti-Christy Griffin faction (2006-10) – c. six deaths
  • M50 gang fall out: Corbally brothers faction vs. O’Driscoll faction (2009-10) c. four deaths
  • Dublin RIRA (Alan Ryan) vs. Coolock gang (‘Mr Big’) (2010-16) – c. eight deaths
  • Hutch vs Kinahan (2015-present) – c. 18 deaths
  • Coolock feud (2019-present) – c. five deaths

According to my research, 10 women were shot dead by those with links to criminality. Six were innocent witnesses or were killed in cases of mistaken identity – Catherine Brennan (1995), Joan Casey (2004), Melanie McCarthy-McNamara (2012), Anna Varslavane (2015) and Antoinette Corball (2017). Donna Cleary was killed when young criminals shot at her home in 2006. Four women were specifically targeted. Journalist Veronica Guerin in 1996, sex worker Sinead Kelly in 1998, Baiba Saulite in 2006 (who was in the middle of a bitter domestic dispute with her former partner and criminal Hassan Hassan over the custody of their two children), and Marioara Rostas who was brutally raped and shot dead in 2008 by a gangland hitman.

A total of 18 individuals were killed while socialising in pubs (See appendix 2). Five of these pubs have since been demolished, one is permanently empty, one is a Chinese restaurant, four are still operating under the same name while another seven are open but have changed their name. A further six people were killed while smoking or drinking outside pubs or while leaving in the car park.

There were a total of 15 cases of ‘double murders’ when two individuals were murdered in the same incident. (See appendix 3) Two fathers and sons were killed in separate incidents – Eddie McCabe (1995) & Eddie McCabe Jr. (2006) as well as Noel Kirwan (2016) & Kane McCormack (2017). There are ten cases of two brothers being killed in separate incidents and a number of uncle/nephew and cousin/cousin murder victims.

The project includes ten individuals born outside of the island:

  1. Tony Lee – 1979 – China
  2. Michael Tsin – 1979 – China
  3. Qui Hong Xiang – 2002 – China
  4. Baiba Saulite – 2006 – Latvia
  5. Marioara Rostas – 2008 – Romania 
  6. Charles Sinapayen – 2009 – France
  7. Zilvinas Varnauskas – 2012 – Lithuania 
  8. Gintaras Želvys – 2013 – Lithuania 
  9. Anna Varslavane – 2015 – Latvia
  10.  Hamid Sanambar – 2019 – Iran

Also two men who had family ties to Belgium (Yohan ‘Yohi’ Verhoeven 2006) and Libya-Pakistan (Adil Essalhi 2011).

Looking at the map, it is stark but no surprise to see the vast majority of pins on the Northside and in West Dublin. Working-class areas with high levels of deprivation and decades-long issues with crime, drugs, unemployment and education levels.

It is striking that there are no pins anywhere within about 5km of the coast from the south city centre all the way down to Bray.  This means that there have been no ‘gangland’ murders in 40+ years in south-east middle-class areas (which would be expected) but also working-class areas which comprise all, or parts, of Ringsend, Irishtown, Dún Laoghaire, Shankill, Monkstown, Ballybrack, Cabinteely, Loughlinstown, Sallynoggin, Ballinteer, Ballyboden, Ballyogan and Sandyford.

There is no doubt that criminal gangs operate in these areas but it is possible that they are less prone to feuds and violence with rivals. Some of it is down to pure luck as there have been shooting incidents in Ballybrack (2007 and 2017); Monkstown Farm (2019); Ringsend (2003); Loughlinstown (2007); Sallynoggin (2014); Ballyogan (2019) and Sandyford (2001).

Conclusion and contact

This project and research will be of interest to historians, researchers and journalists with an interest in criminality, sociology, violence, drugs, homicide levels and social history. These figures should allow others to compare the number of ‘gangland’ murders in Dublin (1.2m) with cities of relatively similar size like Manchester (2.7m) and Glasgow (1.7m). For example, research suggests that during the ten year period between 1999 and 2009, 112 people in Greater Manchester were shot dead. This project has compiled the list of 117 individuals who were killed in gun violence in the same period in Dublin and 131 people if you include neighbouring counties like Meath and Wicklow.

This is a personal project without any financial backing. As you can imagine, it took hundreds of hours of research. I also plan to update it semi-regularly with new incidents. Any few coins would be greatly appreciated! Links: Paypal (matchgrams(at)gmail.com) or Revolut (http://revolut.me/sammcgrath77).

A project of this size is likely to contain some inaccurate details. I apologise in advance and will rectify any genuine mistakes. It is by no means exhaustive and all conclusions are my own. I also would be interested in knowing of any fatalities that I might have missed.  If you have any comments or information, please reach me at matchgrams(at)gmail.com.

Note: I have no connection with the blog (https://ganglandireland.wordpress.com/) but it was a very useful starting point.

Appendix 1 – Bodies that have not been recovered

02 Feb 2000 – Stephen Finnegan (19), of Willie Nolan Road, Baldoyle, was last seen alive on his date. His car, a silver 1986 Honda Civic, was found reversed into the entrance of a house in Ceanchor Road, Howth on 06 Feb. His mother said in a 2011 interview that Stephen had found a haul of drugs in late December 1999. She claims that he was badly beaten by the criminal who owned them and was bombarded with threatening phone calls including that he would be shot. Stephen’s mother believed the criminal thought her son was going to inform the police about the drugs. The mother “believes that he was followed to Howth and shot close to where his car was located and his body then dumped into the Irish Sea from nearby cliffs”. [Motive 5?]

16 Dec 2004: Patrick Lawlor (23), of Buttercup Terrace, Darndale, went missing from his home on this date. His car was found the following day near Dublin Airport. Police suspect that he was killed by a drug gang who he worked for as a courier. Despite extensive digs in the Swords and Balgriffin areas, his body has never been found. [Motive 1]

23 July 2008: Alan Napper (39), of Seacliff Road, Baldoyle, and David ‘Babyface’ Lindsay (38), of Seacliff Drive, Baldoyle were last seen alive on this date in Clane, Co. Kildare. Both had been charged with the possession of substantial amounts of drugs in separate incidents in the 1990s. It is believed that they were killed in a house on the Drumdreenagh Road, Rathfriland, Co. Down, where bloodstains matching Lindsay were later found. Their bodies have never been recovered. Motive 1.

14 April 2015: William Maughan (34), originally from Killinarden, Tallaght, and Anna Varslavane (21), originally from Latvia, were last seen alive on this date. The pair lived together in Gormanstown, Co Meath but were planning to move back to Tallaght at the time of their disappearance. Gardaí believe they were abducted and killed by a criminal gang operating in Meath and Louth as they feared the pair were going to provide information to the Gardaí about the shooting dead of Benny Whitehouse in Balbriggan the year previously. Their bodies have never been found. [Motive 5 – innocent]

Appendix 2 – Pub killings
Pubs (Inside)

  1. Jackie Kelly – 17 Sep. 1980 – Grace’s pub, corner of Townsend St. and Shaw St., Pearse St., D2 – Destroyed by fire 1983.
  2. John Reddin – 01 April 1996 – The Blue Lion pub, 103 Parnell St., North Inner City, D1 – Korean restaurant today
  3. Tony ‘Chester’ Beatty – 30 Nov. 1997 – The Wild Heather pub, 60 Mary St, North Inner City, D1 – Closed 1990s. 
  4. Eamon O’Reilly – 11 Jan. 1998 – The Tower Inn pub, St. Helena’s Rd, Finglas, D11 – Closed 2000s
  5. Raymond Salinger – 28 Jan. 2003 – Farrell’s pub, 35 New St., Clanbrassil St., D8 – Open today (Kavanagh’s)
  6. Declan Griffin – 05 April 2003 – Horse and Jockey pub, Emmet Rd., Inchicore, D8 – Closed
  7. Thomas Canavan – 04 Aug 2003 – Cleary’s pub, 53 Sarsfield Rd., Inchicore, D8 – Open (same name)
  8. Bernard Verb Sugg – 17 Aug 2003 – Brookwood Inn pub, Blackcourt Road, Blanchardstown, D15 – Open today (Leonard’s)
  9. Paul Warren – 25 Feb 2004 – Gray’s pub, Newmarket Square, Coombe, Liberties, D8 – Closed and demolished
  10. Jimmy Curran – 03 April 2005 – The Green Lizard pub, Francis St., The Liberties, South Inner City, D8 – Open today (Drop Dead Twice)
  11. Anthony Russell – 18 April 2008 – Ardlea Inn pub, 11 Maryfield Ave., Artane, D5 – Open today (same name)
  12.  Paul ‘Farmer’ Martin – 23 Aug 2008 – Jolly Toper pub, 33 Church St., Finglas, D11 – Open today (Village Inn)
  13.  John ‘Champagne’ Carroll – 18 Feb 2009 – Grumpy Jack’s pub, 25 The Coombe, D8 – Open today (Spitalfields)
  14.  Eamon Dunne – 23 April 2010 – Fassaugh House pub, 2A Fassaugh Ave., Cabra, D7 – Closed and to be demolished
  15.  Darren Coggan – 25 June 2011 – Black Horse Inn pub, 233 Tyrconnell Rd., Inchicore, D8 – Closed 2010s
  16.  Alan McNally – 02 Feb 2012 – Cappagh Nua pub, 58 Barry Rd., Finglas, D11 – Open today (Abbey Tavern)
  17.  Paul Cullen – 03 April 2013 – Cabra House pub, 62-66 Fassaugh Ave., Cabra, D7 – Closed
  18.  Michael Barr – 25 April 2016 – Sunset House pub, 1 Summerhill Parade, Ballybough, D3 – Off license today

Pubs (outside)

  1. PJ Judge (‘The Psycho’) – 08 Dec 1996 – sitting in car outside Royal Oak pub, Finglas Road, Finglas, D11
  2. Tommy Byrne – 13 April 2000 – drinking outside O’Neill’s pub, 16 Summerhill Parade, Ballybough, D1
  3. Ronald Draper – 14 June 2003 – bouncer outside Charlie P’s pub, Eden Quay, North Inner City, D1
  4. David Thomas – 09 Oct 2009 – smoking outside Drake Inn pub, 60 Main St., Finglas, D11
  5. Peter Butterly – 06 March 2013 – standing outside Huntsman Inn pub, Gormanston, Co. Meath
  6. Darren Kearns 2015 – 05 Feb 2015 – car park of Cumiskey’s pub, Blackhorse Ave., D7

Appendix 3 – Double murders

  1. Eddie McCabe and Catherine Brennan (1995)
  2. Darren Carey and Patrick Murray (1999)
  3. Darren Geoghegan and Gavin Byrne (2005)
  4. Martin ‘Marlo’ Hyland and Anthony Campbell (2006)
  5. Brian Downes and Eddie Ward (2007)
  6. Alan Napper and David ‘Babyface’ Lindsay (2008)
  7. Michael ‘Roly’ Cronin and James Moloney (2009)
  8. Paddy Mooney and Brendan Molyneaux (2010)
  9. Kenneth Corbally and Paul Corbally (2010)
  10.  Mark Noonan and Glen Murphy (2010)
  11.  Andrew Barry and Zilvinas Varnauskas (2012)
  12.  Joseph Redmond and Anthony Burnett (2012)
  13.  Eoin O’Connor and Anthony Keegan (2014)
  14.  Willie Maughan and Anna Varslavane (2015)
  15.  Antoinette Corbally and Clinton Shannon (2017)

Jackie Griffith, a 21-year-old IRA member, was shot dead in July 1943 while cycling near the corner of Lower Mount Street and Merrion Square in Dublin city centre. Although only a young man, he had been active in the IRA for a number of years and had been linked to a series of armed robberies and shooting incidents. Griffith was ‘on the run’ after escaping from Mountjoy Jail eight months previously. He was killed by Special Branch detectives who fired at him with a Thompson submachine through the window of their moving car. The authorities claimed that Griffith shot at them first but the Republican movement always maintained that he was cut down in a clear ‘shoot to kill’ policy. He was the first IRA member killed on the streets of Dublin since Peter McCarthy in 1937 which was the focus of a previous piece.

John Laurence Griffith’s parents Benjamin Griffith and Mary Leonard were from contrasting backgrounds. Benjamin was Protestant and grew up in rural Waterford in comfortable surroundings as the son of a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) Constable. Mary Leonard was Catholic, the daughter of a fisherman, and lived in the Dublin working-class village of Ringsend.

Griffith family
Jackie’s father Benjamin Griffith was born on 06 Oct. 1888 at Marble Lane, Waterford City to Cork natives John Griffith of Skibbereen and Grace Ann Griffith (née Swanton) of Knockroe, Ballydehob, who had married on 25 November 1875 and set up home in Waterford by the 1880s.

In 1901, the Griffith family were living in the coastal village of Annestown near Tramore, County Waterford. John Griffith was the local RIC sergeant and the family (parents and seven children) lived in the RIC Barracks. There seems to have been a strong Church of Ireland identity to the village as it had both a Protestant church and a Protestant meeting hall but noticeably no public house.

John Griffith died of pleurisy on 22 November 1901 aged 57 leaving his widow Grace Ann with seven children ranging in ages from six to 16. Existing on her RIC widow’s pension, she was living in 1911 in a cottage at 64 Poleberry Street, Waterford City with two sons and a boarder. It is unclear where Jackie’s father Benjamin Griffith, aged about 22, was living at the time and I have been unable to find him in the Irish or British Census. His siblings were dotted around the county – Margaret, a domestic nurse and servant in Stillorgan, Dublin; Jane, a Draper Assistant, in Abbeyleix, County Laois and Emily Grace who went to live with an older brother in Killybodagh, County Armagh.

Leonard family
Jackie’s mother Mary Leonard was born on 27 Aug. 1899 at 18 Thorncastle Street, Ringsend, Dublin to James Leonard and Mary Leonard (née Cocoran). The pair had married seven years previously in St. Mary’s Church (Star of the Sea) in Sandymount. James, a fisherman, listed his home address as 2 Cambridge Road, Ringsend while Mary was from 55 Tritonville Road, Sandymount.

In 1901, the Leonard family were living at 407 Cambridge Road, Ringsend in a house that was divided up for three families. James’ occupation was listed as a sailor. (The street numbering seems inconsistent as six children born to James and Mary were registered at 14 Cambridge Road between 1900 and 1911). In 1911, the family (Mary, her parents and five siblings) were still living on Cambridge Road in a tenement house shared by four families.

By 1914, the Leonard family had established themselves at 13 Pigeon House Road. A scenic stretch of bungalows directly facing the River Liffey and Dublin Port.

Benjamin Griffith worked as a painter and lived at 70 Great Brunswick Street (Pearse Street) in 1921 according to his marriage certificate. This was ‘only’ across the bridge from Ringsend and perhaps is a clue to how he met the acquaintance of Mary Leonard. The pair married in St Patrick’s Church, Ringsend on 31 May 1921 in the midst of the War of Independence.

Jackie Griffith’s early years

The couple’s first child John Laurence Griffith – known by his friends and comrades as Jackie – was born in Dublin on 14 November 1921. The family moved to Hulme, Manchester when Jackie was young and Harry White noted in his memoir that he spoke with an English accent. However, the Irish People (12 July 1980) suggests he moved to England in his late teens.

An article in Saoirse newspaper (no. 181, May 2002) states that Griffith joined Sinn Féin in Manchester aged 17 in 1938. It is assumed that he joined the IRA soon afterwards. In January 1939, the IRA launched its bombing campaign in England. Harry White (pg 78) stated that Jackie Griffith was appointed Operations Officer (or Officer Commanding) of the Manchester IRA following the arrest of Joe Collins (alias Conor McNessa) in May 1939. This suggests that Griffith was a capable and respected IRA officer or that Manchester had very few members who could fill the role or it was perhaps a combination of the two situations.

The Second World War broke out in September 1939 and Saoirse (no. 181, May 2002) states that Griffith was deported to Ireland in the same month. (There is no mention of this or other deportations in the contemporary press or subsequent articles.)

On his return to Ireland, Griffith was transferred to the IRA’s Dublin Brigade. In the 1919-1923 period, the IRA unit in Ringsend was organised as D Company, 3 Battalion, Dublin Brigade. By the late 1930s, the IRA was still divided up into battalions and companies but with a much smaller membership. Griffith lived with his grandparents in their home at 13 Pigeon House Road and he got a job in the nearby Irish Glass Bottle factory where he became an active trade unionist.

Arrest (Feb 1942)
On 25 Feb 1942, Jackie Griffith was arrested by Special Branch detectives in the process of collecting revolvers from Private John Regan, a National Army soldier. The pair were seen walking down Benburb Street, Stoneybatter and were followed to Oxmantown Lane, a cul de sac, where the police swooped. Detective Sergeant Michael Gill stated that Griffith attempted to fire a Colt automatic revolver a number of times but his gun did not go off. (The police claimed that the safety catch was on but the gun was loaded with six live rounds, one being in the breech.) Griffith attempted to make a break for it but halted when two shots were fired over his head. After being taken into custody, he was found with an additional three revolvers which had just been passed to him by Private John Regan. When the police raided Griffith’s grandparents home in Ringsend, they retrieved a significant arms cache of 28 revolvers; 211 rounds of Thompson sub-machine gun ammunition; 24 rounds of .45 ammunition and 20 rounds of assorted ammunition.

At the Special Criminal Court trial held in Collins Barracks on 13 March 1942, Griffith refused to recognise the court and a plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf. He was found guilty of attempting to shoot with intent to main; the possession of the revolvers; receiving three revolvers knowing them to be stolen; membership of an illegal organisation and possession of incriminating documents. Griffith was sentenced to ten years of penal servitude.

The court heard that Private John Regan enjoyed a “very good record” during his 18 years in the army. He pleaded guilty to the larceny of nine revolvers during January and February 1942 from the “Surrendered Arms Store” at Islandbridge Barracks where he was stationed. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment with the court regretting that a heavier sentence could not be imposed. Regan was represented by Sean MacBride (former IRA Chief of Staff) on behalf of Messrs Con Lehane and Hogan.

It was noted by Seamus Ó Mongáin in an interview with Uinseann MacEoin (ref Military Archives, UMCE-T-A-02-15) that Griffith had a brother in the Medical Corps, National Army but it’s unclear whether this played any part in developing contacts within that force.

Escape (Nov 1942)
Jackie Griffith shared a cell in Mountjoy Prison with Frank Kerrigan (Cork) and Jim Smyth (Meath) as well as Brendan Behan. The latter had been arrested in April 1942 after firing shots at policemen on the Finglas Road following an Easter Rising commemoration.

In the early morning of 02 Nov 1942, six members of the IRA escaped from Mountjoy Prison. There are conflicting accounts but it would appear that the team prised loose one of the cell windows in the exercise room, scaled down to the yard in a ‘rope’ made of bedsheets or other material and then climbed onto a sentry post on top of the high boundary wall, slid across and dropped down to the outside.

The six men who escaped were:

1. Jackie Griffith
2. Frank Kerrigan of 15 Cahilville, Old Youghal Road, Cork City
3. Jim Smyth of Oldcastle, County Meath
4. Pete Martin of Dublin
5. Mick Lucey of 34 Blarney Street, Cork
6. Mort Lucey of 34 Blarney Street, Cork

On the run
Following a period of laying low in Dublin, Jackie Griffith left the city on St Stephen’s Day, 26 December 1942. The Irish People (12 July 1980) recalled that Griffith set off on his bicycle across the Dublin Mountains to County Carlow where he began his task of re-organising the IRA across Leinster. He worked closely alongside Charlie Kerins (Chief of Staff) and Danny Conroy from Donnybrook. Conroy had been active during the Tan War with Na Fianna Éireann according to interviewee Tom Doran in ‘IRA in the Twilight Years’ (pg 510).

Harry White (pg 138) states that Liam Burke (a leading Belfast IRA man based in Dublin) sent Griffith to Mooncoin, County Kilkenny where he initially came under the suspicion of the local IRA unit for his English accent and was briefly held as a spy. An article in Saoirse (no. 181, May 2002) recalled a close shave after Jackie Griffith and Frank Kerrigan had visited legendary IRA commander Tom Maguire in Cross, County Mayo. On their way back to County Galway they were accosted by the Special Branch but they succeeded in abandoning their bicycles and avoiding capture.

Dublin (Summer 1943)
Returning to Dublin, Griffith was linked to a number of IRA operations while on the run in the summer of 1943.

Just after midnight on 01 June 1943, George Hill (21) of 6 North Richmond Street, Dublin 1, was shot and wounded in the left thigh while walking along Cardiff Lane off Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. No motive was forthcoming and it’s unclear whether he was even the intended target. Following Griffith’s death, the authorities claimed that he was wanted for questioning in connection with this shooting.

Griffith was also believed to have taken part in an attempted robbery at a Dublin Corporation rent office at 75 Tolka Road, Drumcondra on 16 June 1943. Three men armed with revolvers threatened the rent collector and demanded money. The employee escaped through a side door, sounded the alarm and the trio fled the scene. One shot was fired in the melee but nobody was injured.

On the morning of 01 July 1943, Griffith was one of three men who took part in an audacious daylight robbery which netted nearly £4,500 for the IRA. The unit held up and hijacked a wages van at the gates of the Player Wills cigarette factory on the South Circular Road. The unit drove away with the van which was later found abandoned at Dartmouth Lane. In total, they had nabbed £4,465 which was the weekly wages of the factory workforce including their additional ‘war bonus’.

Harry White named the other two men as Archie Doyle and Charlie Kerins. Doyle, then aged 38, was from Inchicore and had served with F Company, 4 Battalion, Dublin Brigade, IRA during the War of Independence and Civil War. (It is generally accepted that Doyle was part of the IRA units which killed Minister for Justice Kevin O’Higgins in 1927 and Garda Detective Sergeant Denis O’Brien in 1942).

Tralee-born Charlie Kerins, then aged 25, had joined the IRA in 1940 and was Chief of Staff of the organisation at the time of the robbery. (Following his subsequent trial and conviction for the 1942 murder of Garda Detective Sergeant Denis O’Brien, Kerins was hanged at Mountjoy Prison in Dublin in June 1944.)

Death (04 July 1943)
On Sunday 04 July 1943, three days after the Player Wills robbery, Griffith visited the home of IRA member Paddy Brown at Ballsbridge Terrace according to Harry White (pgs 121-122).

At 1.30pm, Griffith was cycling towards the city centre along Lower Mount Street when he was fired on by police officers in a car and killed instantly. A passing priest administered the last rites and a Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance took Griffith to Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital on Grand Canal Street. His body was identified by James Leonard. (It’s unclear whether this was his uncle or grandfather as they both shared the same name.)

On 06 July 1943, a one-day inquest took place at the hospital conducted by the City Coroner Dr DA McErlean. This gave more detail into the police version of events. An unnamed police officer stated that they were actively searching for Griffith in the Sandymount and Ringsend area on the day of the shooting. Griffith was spotted cycling along Lower Mount Street by the carload of armed detectives who were driving in the same direction. Its driver overtook Griffith with the alleged intention to “squeeze him against the kerb and compel him to stop”. The police claimed that Griffith recognised the police detectives and increased his speed. They further alleged that Griffith managed to draw a revolver and fired one shot which shattered one of the car lamps splintering glass on the windscreen and puncturing the radiator. As he was reputedly about to fire a second shot, one of the detective officers in the car fired two shots from a Thompson submachine gun. Griffith was hit but managed to cycle on for a few yards where he fell off his bicycle and onto the inward tram-lines opposite Holles Street Hospital at the corner of Lower Mount Street and Merrion Square East. The police claimed that they found Griffith had a revolver holster and extra ammunition after searching him.

James Leonard asked if the inquest could be adjourned in order to give him an opportunity to acquire legal representation but the coroner denied the request. As such, there was no legal team to represent the deceased or his family.

The jury returned a verdict of death “from shock and haemorrhage following a gunshot wound inflicted by a bullet fired by a Detective Sergeant in the execution of his duty”. The Irish People (12 July 1980) named the Garda who fired the submachine gun as Superintendant Michael Gill.

Death certificate for Jackie Griffith

The Irish Press (05 July 1943) made some claims that were not reported in other newspapers including that there were not one but two Garda cars that pulled up alongside Griffith and that he was seen cycling with a young woman “who disappeared” from the scene “during the excitement.” Irish Republican newspapers including Saoirse (no. 183, July 2002) have claimed that Griffith was hit by at least 16 bullets. It does appear highly unlikely that a police officer would fire just two bullets from a Thompson submachine gun at a target who had (allegedly) already shot at them. Another point of contention is whether Griffith was in the right physical state to cycle his bicycle at speed while also retrieving a revolver with one hand and firing a shot so accurately. Saoirse (no. 67, November 1992) claimed that Griffith badly damaged his arm from a fall during the Mountjoy Prison escape. Republicans believe that this injury was still affecting him eight months later and questioned if a man without the full use of one arm could manage to control a bike and draw a gun at the same time.

On the evening of 06 July 1943, Griffith’s remains were removed from the hospital to St Patrick’s Church, Ringsend. A funeral mass took place in the church at 10 o’clock the following morning. The funeral in Glasnevin Cemetery did not receive the coverage it would have in usual circumstances as the leading Irish mainstream newspapers had been reduced from 16 to four pages due to the ongoing Emergency conditions (Second World War).

The Irish Press, the only newspaper that covered the funeral, reported that a decade of the rosary was recited in Irish. The chief mourners were James Griffith (brother); James, Joseph and Michael Leonard (uncles); James Leonard (grandfather); Mrs Lindsay and Mrs Leonard (aunts) and Michael Purcell and James Maguire (cousins). Amongst the Republicans that attended were two former IRA Chiefs of Staff – Dr Andrew Cooney and Mick Fitzpatrick – along with Dr J McKee and Sean Fitzpatrick.

Jackie Griffith was buried in grave FH 167.5 in the St Bridgets Section, Glasnevin alongside his maternal grandparents James Mary Leonard. Lynn Brady (Glasnevin resident genealogist) informed me that Jackie’s last address was listed as 2 Margaret Place, Beggars Bush which was the home of his uncle James Leonard. The family received flowers, wreaths, telegrams and letters from Cumann na mBan, Na Fianna Éireann, Clan na nGael, the National Graves Association and workers from the Irish Glass Bottle factory.

Dublin Evening Mail, 13 July 1943

In a letter to the Western People (09 April 1949), Jack Gavahan of Charlestown, County Mayo described Griffith as “an unarmed youth” who was shot off his bicycle in Mount Street, Dublin by “detectives who overtook him in a squad car and riddled him with machine-gun bullets”. This is the first printed reference I’ve found from someone claiming the long-held belief that Griffith was unarmed at the time of the shooting or certainly did not use any firearm he might have been carrying.

The National Commemoration Committee organised a memorial mass for Jackie Griffith at the University Church, St Stephen’s Green in 1949, 1950 and 1951.

The National Graves Association announced that it was collecting subscriptions for a new Celtic Cross memorial at Jackie Griffith’s grave in Glasnevin Cemetery. Donations were to be sent to Pádraig Ó Braoináin (Patrick Brennan), Cuimhneacháin Shéan Uí Grofia (John Griffith Memorial), c/o, 44 Parnell Square, Dublin. The organising committee comprised of Cathal Ó Murchadha (Charles Murphy) (chairperson), Seán Ó Broin (John O’Brien) (secretary) and Pádraig Ó Braoináin (treasurer). The headstone was unveiled on 06 July 1952 with an oration by Tomás Ó Dubhghaill (Thomas Doyle), president of Sinn Féin.

The headstone description reads:

I nDíl Chuimhne [In Memory Of]
Séain Uí Griobhtha [John Griffith]
Óglaigh na hÉireann [Irish Volunteers/ IRA]

A fuair bás [Who Died]
Ar an 4 lá d’Iúl 1943 [On the 4th of July 1943]
Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam [May God have mercy on his soul]
Erected by the
National Graves Association

From 1956 to 1958, Jackie Griffith’s former Mountjoy comrades Brendan Behan, Seamus Smyth (Jim Smyth) and Jim McDonnell (Jim Mac) of Blarney, County Cork inserted a memorial notice in the Irish Press:

By late 1967, a Jackie Griffith Sinn Féin Cumann was active in the Donnycarney/Coolock/Harmonstown area of North Dublin. The Dundalk Democrat (23 September 1967) reported that they had forwarded a sum of money to a fund for recently dismissed Rawson shoe factory workers. There was also a Jackie Griffith Slua of Na Fianna Éireann in Ringsend in 1968 (see pg 321 of thesis).

The National Cycling Association (NCA) organised an annual Invincibles Memorial race in the Phoenix Park in the 1960s and 1970s. (This was the site of the 1867 murders by the Invincibles of Chief Secretary for Ireland Lord Frederick Cavendish and his Permanent Undersecretary Thomas Henry Burke). The winner of the race received a trophy named in honour of Jackie Griffith. There are mentions of the Jackie Griffith Cup in the newspaper archives from 1969 until 1978. (One of the NCA’s leading members was former Dublin IRA member Joe Christle who established An Rás Tailteann in 1953, a 200-mile two-day road race.)

In 1971, Declan Bree of the Sligo Branch of the Connoly Youth Movement (CYM) wrote a scathing letter to the Western People (12 June) after Fianna Fáil TD Ray MacSharry had condemned “Britain’s role in the Six Counties”. Bree brought attention to the fact that Fianna Fáil were “responsible for the imprisonment of young Republicans in English jails” at that time and then listed 14 Irish republicans who were killed, executed or died on hunger strike during Fianna Fáil rule in the 1930s and 1940s. In regard to Jackie Griffith, Bree wrote that he was “shot dead by Fianna Fáil Special Branch while cycling on Mount Street, Dublin; two carloads of Special Branch opened fire on him with machine guns and his body was almost severed in two by the bullets”. This repeated the Irish Press claim that there were two carloads, not one, of Special Branch. It also graphically reinforced the belief that Griffith received a lot more than one or two bullets.

By 1974, there was a Jackie Griffith Sinn Féin Cumann organised in the Ringsend, Sandymount and Irishtown area. Its chairman in the period was Jim Gorry. This might have led to some confusion as the Jackie Griffith Sinn Féin Cumann (Dublin Northeast) in the Coolock area was still active. Sinn Féin The Workers Paty (Official Sinn Féin) also had a Jackie Griffith Cumann in the Ringsend area in the late 1970s.

It is unclear whether there were public commemorations or memorial events for Jackie Griffith in the immediate decades after his death. (Provisional) Sinn Féin organised events in 1976, 1977 and 1978 which comprised of a memorial mass at St Patrick’s Church, Ringsend followed by a parade to Mount Street where an oration was delivered and a wreath laid at the spot where Griffith was killed.

In 1993, on the 50th anniversary of his death, memorial events were organised by Republican Sinn Féin and Provisional Sinn Féin. RSF’s event at Glasnevin Cemetery was chaired by Peter Cunningham. A wreath was laid by Griffith’s fellow Mountjoy escapee Frank Kerrigan of Cork, Margaret Langsdorf recited a decade of the Rosary in Irish, author Uinseann MacEoinn spoke about Griffith’s life and Liam Cotter of Kerry delivered the oration.

In 2000, Provisional Sinn Féin revived the annual Jackie Griffith commemoration which had not been held since 1993. It was organised by the Jackie Griffith/Mairead Farrell Cumann (Dublin South East). There was a march annually from Ringsend village to Holles Street and a wreath-laying event for four years. 150 people attended the 2001 events including Jackie Griffith’s brother Gerry, his wife and his two daughters, who had travelled over from Manchester. Martin Ferris addressed the event and the weekend also saw the unveiling of a mural dedicated to the 1981 hunger strikers at the Widow Scallan’s pub on Pearse Street, the scene of the 1994 murder of IRA Volunteer Martin Doherty.

In 2002, the memorial event was addressed by Pat Doherty MP and local representative Daithí Doolan. There was also a representative from the striking Irish Glass Bottle Factory workers where incidentally Jackie Griffith had worked in the early 1940s. The 2003 event (60th anniversary of the shooting) was addressed by Alex Maskey (former Belfast Lord Mayor) and there was a public meeting on ‘A United Ireland by 2016’ with speakers Mitchel McLaughlin and Martina Anderson. The last event was in 2004 and was led by the Volunteer Hugh Hehir/Lisa Bell Republican Flute Band.

The 80th anniversary of Jackie Griffith’s death will take place next year (July 2023).

Thanks to: Brian Hanley, Frank Hopkins, Stew Reddin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Oisin Gilmore and Angela Leonard Pollard for information.

If anyone has any further information on the life, death or funeral of Jackie Griffith, please email me at matchgrams(at)gmail.com.

The Bohemia Carnival

Published for the club’s centenary in 1990, Phil Howlin’s history of Bohemian Football Club refers briefly to a carnival held at Dalymount in 1938 and 1940 organised by the wonderfully named “Ways & Means Committee”. Themselves initially formed in 1933 as a mechanism for fund raising, the Committee ran the carnivals in part to benefit the club, but also to provide for the improvement of schools in nearby Cabra. The 1940 iteration of the carnival also contributed a full day’s takings to a benevolent fund organised by veterans of the 1st Battalion, Dublin Brigade IRA.

The first reference in the Irish newspaper archives to the as-named ‘Bohemia Carnival’ however goes back to June 1st, 1910 in the Freeman’s Journal where

The “Bohemia” open-air carnival, which has been organised on behalf of the Bohemian Football Club was continued yesterday at Dalymount Park… The round of sports and amusements was, as on the previous day, one of strong attractiveness.

Entertainment on Thursday June 2nd was provided by “Ireland’s Own Band” alongside an appearance from “the massed bands of the 5th Dragoon Guards, the Rifle Brigade and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.” In addition to the music the military bands provided, there was “a military torchlight tattoo, and a display of fireworks which illustrated the fall of Port Arthur”, concerts, dancing, merry-go-rounds, swing boats and shooting galleries. Saturday June 4th saw a performance from the band of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, as the carnival was concluded for the evening.

Post 1910, there appears no mention in the archives until 1923- no doubt due to those turbulent years in Dublin, where there is a brief reference to the “Now Famous Bohemia Carnival” held in the Kosy Café ballroom on Talbot Street. By the time it re-appears in 1938, the Carnival seems to have morphed into something much larger. Advertisements begin to appear from January 1938 in the Irish Press, the Irish Independent and the Evening Herald promoting a month-long Bohemia Carnival at Dalymount Park, from May 7th to June 12th that year.

By April, Bohemia Carnival events begin to take place around the city, including a Gala Midnight Matinee in the Bohemian Picture Theatre and a Whist Drive in St. Peter’s Hall alongside material promoting “The Greatest Thrill in the World- Stratosphere Girl. Acrobatics 120 Feet in the Air”, fireworks and Barry’s Amusements including the fantastically named Flying Pigs, dodgem cars, chairoplanes, a ghost train and various side shows. 

As well as the amusements, the Carnival was to include two speedways, a Wall of Death display (performed by Cyclone Chris and Dare Devil Ena according to Howlin,) and two large marquees with especially laid floors for a cèilidh and ‘old time waltzes’. According to reports at the time, due to their huge popularity these marquees were extended and became the largest raised dancefloors in the country at the time. The aforementioned fireworks displays by the famous Brock’s Company, a comedy competition and a seven-mile road race also entertained the crowds.

Several cycling races were organized by the C.R.E. to start and finish at Dalymount. The Evening Herald on May 9th said, “It is for the messenger boys- on a scale something similar to the world-famous Paris event of its kind.” The race, over five miles and on carrier bicycles was won by K.V. Duff (Duff Bros., Santry) with J. Burke (Pearse Bros., Marino) in second and K. Bradley (Shiels, Cabra) in third.

Opened by Bohemian’s president, Mr. Archbold said that the club ‘would celebrate its golden jubilee in 1940.’ Members of it, he added, had ‘acquitted themselves honorably in art, culture and battle throughout the world.’ 25,000 people attended the opening night.

The undoubted attraction of the carnival was the so-called Stratosphere Girl, promoted widely (and daily) as the main draw. The Stratosphere Girl was Camilla Mayer, born Lotte Witte in 1918 in Stettin, Germany- today Szczecin, Poland. Part of the famous Camilio Mayer high wire troupe, her act consisted of her performing daring acts such as handstands, headstands, and balancing on one toe on a platform just a couple of inches wide atop a 138-foot-tall pole. She was in fact so galled by one Dublin newspaper promoting the Carnival which claimed the performance would take place at 120 feet as referred to earlier in this piece, that she complained and forced them into a retraction. (See accompanying ‘Apology to a lady’ image.)

According to Phil Howlin, these escapades were performed in Dalymount nightly at 22:00 without the aid of a safety net. Wildly popular, she saw her run at the Carnival extended past her initial two weeks and was granted a tour of Dublin on Friday May 20th, visiting the Irish Press building, the Jacob’s factory, the Guinness Brewery and the Savoy restaurant.

Mayer was certainly a star in her own right, performing at the famous Butlins camp throughout the 1930’s. Subject to what can only be assumed was anti-German sentiment, she was twice victim to sabotage (and indeed attempted murder), as it was discovered in pre-performance inspections that the support cables for her pole had been tampered with.

Her bravado at such great heights would ultimately lead to her death on January 20th, 1940 at the Deutschland Halle in Berlin when a 60-foot-tall pole she was performing atop snapped, causing her to plummet to her death. The name Camilla Mayer was taken by numerous high wire performers after her death in order to honour her memory.

Brock’s vast fireworks displays enthralled the crowds each weekend, as one contemporary news report describes:

The Bohemia Carnival at Dalymount Park attracted huge crowds during the weekend, despite the break in the weather. The fireworks displays which were given on Saturday and Sunday nights were most attractive and entertaining. The ‘House on Fire’ was a most ingenious display. A house was lit up, and then ‘went on fire.’ An illuminated ‘Fire Brigade’ then rushed to the scene. The ‘firemen’ and ‘equipment’ were also illuminated; and sprayed ‘water’ on the conflagration and succeeded in getting the ‘fire’ under control. It was a most spectacular and colorful display, and the performance won rounds of applause from the huge crowd present.

The 1938 Carnival also played host to The Munroe Troupe of High-Wire Artists, billed as the Gothian Four. According to promotional material, one of the four was a boy of twelve years of age, who received special permission from ‘the Ministry of Labour’ to become a high-wire artist at such an early age.

“Gotha, the leader of the troupe, is the heaviest high-wire artist in the world weighing 21 stone. He will cycle across the wire, which is and will offer to carry any lady or man on his back while doing so. He will also carry a stove along the wire and will cook pancakes, which he throws to the crowd beneath him. One of the ladies of the troupe will perform balancing feats with a chair, and the other lady will walk across the wire while enveloped in a sack and blindfolded.”

The 1940 iteration of the Carnival went for a similarly daring act- the Lindberghs. Stan and Tom Lindbergh were a High Dive act, climbing a rickety tower of ‘tremendous height’ and diving into a tank containing just five foot of water, a feat dangerous enough in itself, but even more so that their ‘Sensational Death Dive’ when it was done whilst on flames and blindfolded.

Another tragedy would beset a veteran of the Bohemia Carnival, as Stan would meet his death in an accident years later, misjudging a dive and colliding with the side of his tank. (I struggled to find much written on the Lindbergh’s, but similarly to high wire artists taking the name Mayer, it seems to be a stage name for ‘high fire divers’ with a Don Lindbergh performing at carnivals around the UK up to the ’80s at least- great picture here.)

An interesting happenstance also occurred at the 1940 Carnival. Long before Liam Brady made his debut against the Soviet Union at Dalymount Park in 1974, his brother Ray was winning trophies there. Not in his capacity as a footballer, though he would earn six Irish caps in 1963/1964 while and feature at Dalymount in that spell, but in the 1940 Bohemia Carnival Bonny Baby Competition, beating hundreds of other children to the top spot.

Evening Herald, October 1963

While the carnivals obviously raised much needed funds for the club, it can only be imagined how badly effected the playing surface must have been with the large footfall, racetracks, amusements, death dives, high wires, dancehalls and the rest- and how much work it would take to return this to a playable condition before the start of the following season. Partly for this reason, Howlin explained that

From the funds however it was decided to install an artesian well at a depth of 220 feet, which could yield up to 1,000 gallons of water per hour. The cost was £466. For many years thereafter Dalymount Park’s groundsmen have been blessed with a supply of water and have not had to rely on the vagaries of our summer weather, when the grass was in need of water at short notice before each season.

That well of course, along with the old tramway terrace shall be no more in the coming years.

– Ciaran Murray

Peter McCarthy, a 20-year-old IRA member, was shot dead in June 1937 on Lower Clanbrassil Street. He was killed by an off-duty Special Branch officer with an unlicensed revolver in dubious circumstances during the arrest of two fellow IRA members. His burial in Mount Jerome Cemetery was attended by 3,000 people including the Chief of the Staff of the IRA, the President of Cuman na mBan and the President of Sinn Féin.

Family Background
Peter McCarthy’s parents were both born in Dublin and grew up in various tenements in the South Inner City around the area of Golden Lane and Bride Street.

His father William McCarthy (b. 18 Dec 1886) came from a working-class Church of Ireland family. In 1901, the eight of them lived in one room in a tenement house at 1.1 Arthur’s Lane, off Golden Lane. Five families (28 people) lived in the house altogether. By 1911, William was living with his widowed mother at 84.1 Bride Street sharing the house with a further two families.

24-year-old William’s occupation was listed as a ‘library porter’ in 1911 which would have been a good job and fairly rare considering there were nearly 32,000 men employed as labourers in the city but only just over 100 working as librarians or library assistants/porters. William McCarthy was also one of only 340 Protestant McCarthy’s in the 32 Counties in 1911 as opposed to nearly 18,000 McCarthy’s who were Catholic.

Peter’s mother Anne Moore (b. 14 Jan 1898) was living with her family at 7.5 Great Longford Street, off Golden Lane, in 1901. Seven families (21 people) lived in the house. The Moore family (parents and two children) occupied one room. By 1911, Anne was living with her mother at 8.1 Upper Digges Street, off Aungier Street. Four families (13 people) occupied the building with Anne, her mother and two siblings sharing a single room.

As the city’s buildings were still smouldering from the destruction of the Easter Rising, William (29) and Anne (18) married on 15 May 1916 at the Catholic Church of Saints Michael and John on Lower Exchange Street. By this time, Anne’s family were living at 27 East Essex Street in Temple Bar. William had been promoted to ‘library assistant’ and was still living with his family on Bride Street.

Peter, their first child, was born on 02 May 1917 in Holles Street Hospital. The couple by this stage had made a home for themselves at Flat 21, Block H, Iveagh Trust Buildings on Bride Street. His father’s occupation was listed as a librarian on Peter’s birth certificate.

Tragedy struck the family with the death of patriarch William McCarthy (43). The cause of death on 11 Dec 1930 was a chill and lobar pneumonia. The family had moved by this stage to no. 25 in the same block of flats. Peter was only 13 years old when he lost his father who was described as a ‘timekeeper’ on his death certificate. The family suffered another traumatic incident the following year with the death of Peter’s younger sister Annie Christina, aged just 2, who died on 01 July 1931. The cause of death was accidental scalds on the body, toxaemia (blood poisoning) and cardiac failure.

Move to Crumlin
I expect that Peter McCarthy joined the IRA in his late teens. He was a member of B Company, 4 Battalion, Dublin Brigade. This unit in the 1919-23 period comprised of men mostly from the area around Aungier Street, Donore Avenue, South Circular Road, Lower Clanbrassil Street and Patrick Street in the South Inner City area. The son of an IRA member who knew him has told me via email that Peter often used the Irish version of his first name – Peadar McCarthy.

The Dublin Brigade had an estimated 630 members in 1933 according to Brian Hanley in his book “The IRA 1926-1936” (page 16). The Brigade O/C in 1937 was Jim Hannigan, see Uinseann MacEoin’s “The IRA in the Twilight Years 1923-1948” (page 773).

Barry McLoughlin estimates that 55 Dublin men travelled over with the International Brigades to fight in the Spanish Civil War. It’s quite probable that Peter McCarthy knew some of the IRA men within these ranks. At least one Liam McGregor (1914-1938) was from the same company as Peter. Others like Tony Fox (1914-1936) and Mick May (1916-1936) had served with A Company of the same battalion before travelling to Spain.

Large estates of suburban housing were built by Dublin Corporation from the mid-1920s onwards as part of its programme of slum clearance and re-housing of families from the city centre. These well-planned, outlying estates included Crumlin where construction began in 1934. The McCarthy family were moved out of the inner city to a new house at 207 Clonard Road in ca.1935-37.

Background to shooting (May 1937)
The events which lead up to Peter’s death begin in May 1937. James Patton, of 20 Kildare Street, owned a motor garage at Denzille Place off Denzille Street (now Fenian Street). An Austin saloon car was hired from him by two unidentified men on 13 May and not returned until 2am of the 15th. Patton later gave evidence that the pair “drew revolvers from their pockets”. Presumably, this was to scare James Patton and deter any protest on his part about the late return. Whether under duress or not, Patton stated that he drove one of the men to Harold’s Cross Bridge and the other to Parnell Bridge, Crumlin. Later that day, Patton claimed that this Austin saloon car was stolen on the South Circular Road. The theft was reported to the Gardaí who found the vehicle the following afternoon on Merrion Square. The car was removed to Dublin Castle and photographed for fingerprints. James Patton gave a description of the two men and it appears that the authorities soon had drawn up a list of possible suspects.

Detective-Officer John Brocklebank, of the Special Branch, gave evidence in court that he was detailed to watch the home of one young man named Samuel (Sam) Wheelock (22) who lived with his family at 48 Lower Clonbrassil Street.

Brocklebank later stated that he had the house under observation intermittently for a month but had not seen any sign of Wheelock during this time. Another member of the Special Branch, Detective Sergeant Moroney (also given as Mooney), told the subsequent inquest that he searched Wheelock’s home on 20 and 29 May 1937 for arms but none were found.

The shooting on Clanbrassil Street (15 June 1937)
On the evening of Tuesday 15 June 1937, Detective-Officer Brocklebank spotted Wheelock enter his house on Lower Clonbrassil Street at around 5 o’clock. Brocklebank was not on duty until 6pm that day and this detail was brought up at the later inquest.

Brocklebank claims that he located a uniformed Garda officer, who was on traffic duty at Leonard’s Corner, and gave him a telephone number on a piece of paper to ring. About five minutes later Detective Sergeant Moroney, and his colleague Detective Sergeant Wilfred Dowd, arrived on the scene in a car. Before going into his home, Wheelock was spotted speaking to three other men on the street. They were Peter McCarthy (20), his comrade and neighbour Henry (Harry) Dale (20) of Clonfert Road, Crumlin, and another young IRA member Eamon Fagan (17) of St. James Walk, Rialto.

Brocklebank said that he took Harry Dale into custody on the stairs of no. 48 after he followed him into the building which was divided up into flats. He then went into Wheelock’s home and found him having his tea. Brocklebank told him that needed to take him into Dublin Castle for questioning but allowed him to finish his meal first. Both Dale and Wheelock were taken outside and put into the back of the police car which was parked on the opposite side of the street from the house. There were now five people in the car – Detective Sergeant Moroney in the driver’s seat, Detective Sergeant Dowd in the passenger seat and Detective-Officer Brocklebank in the back seat with the two young men.

Miss Lily Wheelock, sister of Sam, was looking out of her window at home about 6.10pm when she saw Peter McCarthy standing on the pavement on the opposite side of her house. She later told the court that she saw McCarthy move towards the parked police vehicle. In her mind, she told the court, it looked like McCarthy was leaning in to say something to her brother in the back seat. Miss Wheelock did not indicate at any stage of her testimony that McCarthy was carrying any firearm or acting suspiciously. Two other eyewitnesses, interviewed by the Irish Independent (16 June 1937), also did not make any reference to Peter McCarthy being armed.

The next thing a shot rang out and Lily Wheelock saw McCarthy fall “on his back on the roadway [with] his hands clasping the lapels of his coat”. She rushed out of her home and “.. saw McCarthy lying moaning on the roadway and, as the other young man ran away, I saw a man with a gun. I shouted, “Don’t shoot!”

Lily went to console McCarthy who told her “I am dying – get me a priest”. Maisie Osbourne, who worked in the nearby Greenmount Linen Mill, was on her way home from work when she came across the scene. She told the court that she whispered the Act of Contrition into Peter’s ear. It was later reported in an Irish republican newspaper that Osbourne was the first person to reach McCarthy and “swore” that there was no gun in his hand or beside his body.

The unconscious McCarthy was placed in the front of the police car and driven to the nearby Meath Hospital, Heytesbury Street (less than 1km away). He was admitted at about 6.20pm and died within ten minutes. The subsequent inquest was told that the single bullet passed through his left forearm, into his ribs near his lung and right through his heart. The cause of death was shock and haemorrhage. The Irish Times (16 June 1936) was informed by hospital staff that Peter was shot at close range (3-4 yards) and the bullet “had pierced [his] left forearm as if [he] had raised his arm to attempt to protect himself”.

The killing shocked the residents of the local area and the Irish Press (16 June 1937) reported that “curious throngs crowded Clanbrassil Street discussing the shooting until a late hour”. On a side note, Clanbrassil Street in the 1930s was the heart of Dublin’s Jewish community and had as many as 27 Jewish groceries, bakeries and general stores in the period.

Funeral (18 June 1937)
Peter McCarthy celebrated his 20th birthday just a month before his death. His death certificate stated that he was unemployed. The press reported that his mother, a widow with six children, was employed as a cleaner in Government offices while one of his brothers was a soldier in the National Army. The news must have been devastating after already losing her husband and a daughter. “She sat on a chair in the kitchen, on the wall of which is a photograph of the dead boy and herself, and sobbed “my poor boy” while neighbours tried to comfort her” reported The Irish Times (16 June 1937).

On the evening of 17 June, his coffin left the Meath Hospital accompanied by an IRA guard of honour. The press reported that a large number of people lined the streets as the cortege travelled to Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross via Clanbrassil Street where it halted for a few minutes at the location of the shooting.

That same evening Éamon de Valera spoke at a Fianna Fáil public election meeting in Dublin where a “group of men” interrupted proceedings with cries of “Who shot Peter McCarthy?” and “Up the Republic!” as reported in the Evening Herald (17 June 1937).

On the following morning, the funeral cortege left Our Lady’s Hospice and proceeded to Crumlin. The coffin was draped in the tricolour with an eight-man guard of honour followed by 100 men in formation. They were accompanied by women of Cumann na mBan, Clan na nGaedheal (the girls scouts) and uniformed boy scouts of Na Fianna Éireann. The procession stopped outside the McCarthy family home at 207 Clonard Road for a few minutes. The Irish Times (19 June 1937) remarked that the “route was lined with spectators and all [the] blinds” of shops and homes were drawn as a mark of respect.

The burial at Mount Jerome Cemetery was attended by 3,000 people according to the Irish Press (19 June 1937). The chief mourners were Ann McCarthy (mother), William McCarthy (brother), Emily McCarthy (sister), and numerous uncles, aunts and cousins.

The Republican movement was represented by a large number of well-known women including Mrs Margaret Buckley (née Goulding) (President of Sinn Féin); Mrs Eithne O’Donnell (née Coyle) (President of Cumann na mBan); Mrs Sean MacBride (Catalina Bulfin); Madame Maud Gonne MacBride; Mrs Cathal Brugha (née Caitlín Kingston); Miss Fiona Plunkett (Cumann na mBan); Miss May Laverty (Cumann na mBan); Mrs Tom Barry (Leslie Price); Miss Sheila McInerney; Miss Maeve Gleeson and others.

The funeral was further attended by solicitor Con Lehane (IRA); J Clarke [Joe Clarke] (Sinn Féin); Sean Keating; Sean Brady; Mick Fitzpatrick (IRA Chief of Staff); P Kearney (Cork); Sean Derrington; J Stapleton; P. O Aodgháin; Dr J Hannigan and Mr McIvor, Mr Cairns and Mr Power (Unemployed Workers Rights Association). Mick Fitzpatrick had replaced Sean MacBride as the IRA’s Chief of Staff in “mid-1937” according to Uinseann MacEoin in “The IRA in the Twilight Years 1923-1948” (page 17).

Leading IRA member Peadar O’Flaherty delivered the oration at Mount Jerome and told the large crowd that Peter “laid down his life for the Irish Republic”. The Last Post was sounded and a group of young men fired three volleys into the air over the grave with revolvers. The police made no attempt to interfere.

Peter McCarthy is buried in grave number A21-506 alongside his sister and his mother (who died in 1965). The inscription is as follows:

In Loving Memory
Of My Dear Son
Peter McCarthy
207 Clonard Road, Crumlin
B Company, 4 Battalion, Dublin Brigade, IRA
Who Gave His Life For The Republic of Ireland
On The 15th June 1937, Aged 20
Do chum Glóire Dé agus Ónóra na hÉireann [For the Glory of God and the Honour of Ireland]
Also My daughter Anne Died 1st July 1931
Also Their Beloved Mother
Annie McCarthy
Died 4th Dec. 1965

Court (1937) and Inquest (1938)
The day after the funeral, the police charged Sam Wheelock (22) and Harry Dale (20) with illegal possession of firearms at James Patton’s motor garage at Denzille Place, on 14 May, and stealing one of his motorcars on 15 May.

Eamon Fagan (17) was charged with conspiring with McCarthy, and another unnamed man who was not apprehended, to rescue Wheelock and Dale from lawful custody after they had been arrested. The Irish Press (17 June 1937) reported that as the trio were being taken from the Bridewell station in a police van, they shouted: “Up the Republic!”.

Regarding the events on 15 June, Brocklebank testified that as his colleague Dowd was closing the passenger door, Peter McCarthy approached the car with a revolver in his right hand, grabbed the left arm of Detective Sergeant Dowd and told him to “Stick it up”. Brockleback alleged that he removed a revolver from his pocket, put a bullet into the breach and opened the car door. Just as he stepped out, he claims that Peter McCarthy turned in his direction and Brockleback fired the fatal shot which killed him.

Brocklebank in court on 24 June 1937 claimed that he “took the gun from the deceased man who was on the ground in a huddled position” before chasing after Eamon Fagan who had ran from the scene after the shooting. He called on Fagan to halt near Leonard’s Corner which he did and brought him back to the police car.

It was claimed that the gun taken from McCarthy was a short Webley revolver, an old RIC pattern. It contained two live rounds, one opposite the barrel. The trigger would have to be pulled four times before the gun would fire and there was no evidence that the gun had been discharged recently.

It emerged in the Dublin District Court on 14 June 1937 that Brocklebank shot McCarthy with a Browning semi-automatic pistol (containing six live rounds of ammunition) which was not the official Garda .45 revolver issued to Special Branch officers. This was a personal weapon that he evidently carried on his person while off-duty and which the court was told was against police regulations.

The police also claimed that they found Eamon Fagan’s fingerprints on the stolen car. The solicitor for the McCarthy family, Con Lehane, alleged that Fagan was manhandled while in custody with a view to intimidate him regarding the evidence he would give. The authorities refuted this and insisted that Fagan “objected to his fingerprints being taken and it was necessary to use reasonable force” (Evening Herald, 29 June 1937). The family’s solicitor Con Lehane had joined the IRA in 1929, served 18 months in Arbour Hill in 1935-36 and was described as the Dublin Brigade’s intelligence officer in 1937.

On 22 July 1937, Harry Dale and Sam Wheelock’s case was dismissed and they were discharged from the court. Fagan was returned for trial on bail at a later date but was also acquitted.

It took over a year for the inquest on the death of Peter McCarthy to take place. Lawyer Sean MacBride, who had served as IRA Chief of the Staff from mid-1936 to early 1937, told the jury:

“It was beyond dispute that McCarthy had been shot by a policeman. The police are empowered to carry arms for special purposes only. I think that in these days of dictatorships a grave responsibility rests on the jury to see that the police force of this country are going to kept under control and not be allowed to abuse the powers which they have”. (Cork Examiner, 23 July 1938)

The jury, after three days of evidence, concluded on 23 July 1938, that Peter McCarthy died from gunshot wounds but they could not agree on the points that:

1) Peter McCarthy was armed
2) that Detective-Officer Brocklebank could not have inflicted the wounds from the position in which McCarthy was standing

In view of this verdict and the evidence, AE Wood, Senior Counsel for McCarthy’s family, asked Dr DA McErlean, City Coroner, to charge Detective Brocklebank and his two colleagues with manslaughter. This was refused. Wood believed that the evidence presented showed that “McCarthy was not armed, and from that from the positions of McCarthy and Detective Brocklebank at the time it would have been impossible for McCarthy to be shot through the left forearm”.

John Brocklebank served in the same battalion as Peter McCarthy in the 1919-23 period. His membership of C Company, 4 Battalion, Dublin Brigade is confirmed in the Nominal Rolls (page 35) and his military service pension file reference number is MSP34REF20135. His Company Captain was Denis O’Brien who also joined the Special Branch in the early 1930s and was killed by the IRA in 1942.

The only evidence of a response from party politics was from Cumann Poblachta na hÉireann, the IRA’s short-lived political party. Two of its Dublin branches, the Central Branch and the John Mitchel Branch, passed votes of sympathy to the McCarthy family in the days after his death.

Mary MacSwiney, a sister of Terence MacSwiney who died on hunger-strike, criticised Fianna Fáil in a letter to the Cork Examiner (20 July 1937). She said that since taking power they had “restored and enforced coercion; imprisoned men for no other crime than that of being soldiers of the Republic” and now “have the deaths of Sean Glynn and Peter McCarthy on their charge”. [Sean Glynn was found hanging in his cell in Arbour Hill on 13 Sep 1936, the cause of his death was disputed with his family believing it was murder.]

The Irish Democrat (11 Dec 1937) reported on a Kevin Barry Commemoration meeting held in the Carlton Hall, London on 30 Nov during which the speaker TF Long, from Tipperary, referred to the recent deaths of “Sean Glynn and Peter McCarthy, and to the [unjust] imprisonment of Michael Conway”.

Messages of condolences came from some surprising quarters. The Wolfe Tone Weekly (13 Nov 1937) reported that members of the Rathfarnham Dramatic Society “paid glowing tributes to the courage and unselfish devotion” of Volunteer Peter McCarthy “who had worked unceasingly for the advancement of everything that was Irish and Republican”.

It appears that Hary Dale was a member of the Rathfarnham Dramatic Society as was Peter himself. Dale was elected chairman in Oct 1937.

Prison Bars, the publication of the Womens’ Prisoners Defence League, reinforced the opinion of the republican movement that there were serious questions about the police officer’s accounts of events. In an early issue (01 Aug 1937), they reviewed the facts of the case in their mind:

“Many people returning from work witnessed the crime. They saw a police car drawn up, they saw a young man speak to the prisoners, they saw a CID man fire, they saw the young man fall, they saw his body bundled into the police car. Two days later many attended McCathy’s funeral to Mount Jerome Cemetery, as a protest against the shooting.”

Following the conclusion of the inquest, the Prison Bars journal was more forthright. Their issue (01 Aug 1938) reported that witness Maisie Osbourne “swore she was the first person to reach [McCarthy] and that he was clutching his chest with his two hands, and that he had no gun and there was no gun lying near him”. They continued: “An inquiry into the powers of the Special Branch is urgent and necessary. Guns, official and unofficial, must be under some sort of control, and men subject to nerves or drink should not be allowed to carry them”.

On 15 June 1938, the following message was inserted into the Evening Herald:

McCarthy – In proud and loving memory of our brave comrade, Peter McCarthy, who was shot in Dublin June 15 1937. Do chum glóire Dé agus onóra na hÉireann [To the Glory of God and Honour of Ireland]. Inserted by his comrades Harry, Eamon, Johnny, Sam, Desmond, Danny.

A similar note was inserted in the same newspaper the following year by Peter’s friend and neighbour Harry Daly:

McCarthy – Second Anniversary – In memory of my brave comrade, Peter McCarthy, 207 Clonard Road, Crumlin, shot in Dublin, June 15, 1937 – Harry.

The last press insert, that I can locate, came from 1946 and was by Harry again:

McCarthy (Ninth Anniversary) – In memory of my brave comrade, Volunteer Peter McCarthy, B. Coy., 4th Batt., Dublin Brigade, shot in Dublin, June 15, 1937. Do chum glóire Dé agus onóra na hÉireann [To the Glory of God and Honour of Ireland]Harry.

As far as I’m aware, there was no attempt to mark the location where Peter McCarthy was fatally wounded with a plaque or marker. Clanbrassil Street itself saw a large amount of demolition in the late 1980s to facilitate the construction of a four-lane dual carriageway. It appears that the row of houses at no. 48 Lower Clanbrassil Street were pulled down as early as 1980 for road widening. I can also find no evidence that there were any annual commemorations or memorial services to mark his death. The IRA was at such a low ebb in the early 1940s that this is not entirely surprising.

It is unclear whether Peter McCarthy’s three comrades – Eamon Fagan, Hary Dale and Sam Wheelock – had any further involvement with the IRA or republican politics.

Peter’s mother Annie McCarthy, of 207 Clonard Road, died on 04 Dec 1965 aged 67.

John Brocklebank, who had joined the Special Branch in 1933, retired in the mid-1960s and died in July 1974.

McCarthy was the first IRA Volunteer killed in the capital since 1928 when Tim Coghlan (F Company, 4 Battalion, Dublin Brigade) was shot dead by state agent Sean Harling at Woodpark Lodge, Dartry Road near Rathgar. McCarthy was also the first IRA member killed in Dublin by the Special Branch of the Fianna Fáil government who came into power in 1932.

Many former anti-Treaty IRA men were initially recruited into the Special Branch in the early 1930s to fight Eoin O’Duffy’s fascist ‘Blueshirts’ which comprised of ex National Army soldiers. Historian Donnacha Ó Beacháin in his book ‘Destiny of the Soldiers‘ described Fianna Fáil’s Special Branch (nicknamed the Broy Harriers) as providing many anti-Treaty “Civil War veterans with a gun, a salary and an opportunity to patrol their old adversaries” (p. 134).

From the late 1930s onward, the Special Branch’s focus turned from the Blueshirts to the IRA which comprised of many War of Independence and anti-Treaty veterans along with new, young recruits like Peter McCarthy. Historian J Bowler Bell claims in ‘Secret Army’ (page 171) that McCarthy’s death in 1937 shattered any latent ties that might have still existed between the IRA and some of their “old comrades” in the ‘Broy Harriers’.

A number of major events pushed the IRA and the authorities into serious and open conflict by the early 1940s including the IRA’s raid on the Irish Army’s reserve ammunition store in the Phoenix Park’s Magazine Fort (1939); their bombing campaign in England which led to the deaths of several civilians (1939-40) and the development of contacts between the IRA and Nazi German military intelligence. This prompted the Fianna Fáil government to enact the Emergency Powers Bill to reinstate internment and the death penalty for IRA members during ‘The Emergency’ (Second World War).

Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid in her biography of Sean MacBride succinctly notes that Peter’s death was “an ugly portent of the explosive violence that would become a recurrent feature of IRA-Gardaí relations during the war years”. At least nine people died in Dublin between 1940 and 1943:

– IRA Volunteers Tony D’Arcy and Sean McNeela died on hunger-strike in Mountjoy Prison (April 1940)
– Detective Sergeant Patrick McKeown and Detective Richard Hyland were shot dead by IRA members during a raid on a house at 98a Rathgar Road (16 Aug 1940)
– IRA Volunteers Patrick MacGrath and Thomas Harte were executed by firing squad in Mountjoy Prison (06 Sep 1940)
– Detective Sergeant O’Brien was gunned down by an IRA unit outside his home on the Ballyboden Road, Rathfarnham (09 Sep 1942)
– Garda George Mordaunt was shot dead during a raid on an IRA safe house at 14 Holly Road, Donneycarney (24 Oct 1942)
– IRA Volunteer Maurice O’Neill was executed in Mountjoy Prison (12 Nov 1942)
– IRA Volunteer Jackie Griffith was shot dead by the Special Branch at the junction of Merrion Square and Holles Street (04 July 1943).

If anyone has any further information on the life, death or funeral of Peter McCarthy, please email me at matchgrams(at)gmail.com. I would love to speak to any of the descendants of Peter and his comrades Sam Wheelock, Harry Dale and Eamon Fagan.

The Irish Independent (16 June 1937, 22/23 July 1938); The Irish Times (16/17/18/19/24/30 June, 01/08/15/22 July 1937); The Irish Press (16/17/19/24/30 June, 01/08/15/22 July 1937, 21 July 1938); The Evening Herald (17 June, 07 July 1937); The Cork Examiner (18/24 June 1937); The Belfast Newsletter (19 June 1937); L’Derry Sentinel (22 July 1937)
Find My Past; 1901/1911 Census; IrishGeneology.ie

Thanks to
Matt Doyle (National Graves Association); Frank McGarry (Mount Jerome Cemetery); Damien Farrell (Housing and Community activist, Dublin South Central); Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Sinn Féin TD, Dublin South Central); Aaron Ó Maonaigh (Historian); Brian Hanley (Historian)

Map of Dublin addresses associated with Peter McCarthy

George Lucas (born George Quirke) (1926–2014) was an English civil servant who documented his gay social life in a series of detailed personal diaries from the 1950s until the 1990s. Lucas befriended journalist Hugo Greenhalgh in the mid-1990s and he was one of only three people to attend Lucas’ funeral in 2014 alongside a fellow co-executor of his will and a neighbour. Before his death, Lucas agreed to donate his extensive diaries to Greenhalgh. For the last three years, Greenhalgh has been patiently transcribing and posting entries from the diaries onto Facebook. He has started in the year 1968 when Lucas was aged about 42.

Mr Lucas in 1967. Credit – https://boyz.co.uk/

Lucas’ mother was Irish and it also comes through in many diary entries that he had a particular soft spot for Irish men (mainly prostitutes) in London. In September 1968, Lucas spent two days in Dublin. (The original transcript of the diary entry is available here). Lucas also included four lovely photographs of Dublin from that trip.

The main reason for his visit was to try to locate his mother’s birth certificate in the registry office. It is clear that this was not Lucas’ first visit to Dublin as he knew the gay geography of the city very well. He also mentions an unsavoury incident in 1966 when he was physically assaulted in Dublin in a homophobic attack/robbery. I hope Greenhalgh can transcribe and post this particular diary entry in due course.

View of Liberty Hall from Busaras, Store Street. Credit: George Lucas/Hugo Greenhalgh

Lucas visits two of the main cruising spots in the city centre, the public toilets at Burgh Quay and St. Stephen’s Green. He spots a couple of lads who had a “villainous cut-throat look” on Burgh Quay beside O’Connell Street Bridge and “various middle-aged and elderly men” at hanging around the toilet in St. Stephen’s Green.

The writer had a drink in the city’s three main gay-friendly bars – Rice’s, Bartley Dunne’s and Davy Byrne’s. Drinking a lager in Rice’s, he was happy to see that the “rather unwelcoming barman of 2 years ago” was gone. At Davy Byrne’s, he enjoyed two “whiskies and water and a good cup of coffee”. Bartley Dunne’s was “crowded” but he only recognised “little tubby Bert the head barman and Mr Bartley Dunne’s own somewhat spectral figure”. On his second visit to Bartley Dunne’s the following night, he was warmly greeted by the “sturdy friendly barman” Brian who told him that George (“that attractive if somewhat pretentious barman”) had left Bartley Dunne’s to manage a hotel bar in Dún Laoghaire.

I have a particular interest in Rice’s and Bartley Dunne’s and published a long piece on their history in 2013 which I continue to add material whenever I can.

Here is the edited diary extract of George Lucas’ visit to Dublin, enjoy. It’s an amazing slice of social history.

September 10, 1968 (Tuesday):

“I had dinner at Moran’s Hotel – 6s 6d for egg and sausages of more diminutive size than I have seen since my last visit. It is as well there is an abundance of bread and butter to eke out the meal. I was nervous this clear sunny evening, and to my fearful fancy a couple of lads hanging round the Burgh Quay lavatory had a villainous cut-throat look. I noticed a tall youngish man in a pink shirt in talk with a man – not a visitor.

To Rice’s bar and sat awhile over a lager, noticing that the rather unwelcoming barman of 2 years ago is gone; and then to Davy Byrne’s, striking up courage with 2 whiskies and water and a good cup of coffee, served by the sandy haired apprentice I heard called Paddy. Like every apprentice barman in Davy Byrne’s, he looked out of spirits.

View of O’Connell Street Bridge from Burgh Quay. Credit: George Lucas/Hugo Greenhalgh

Bartley Dunne’s was crowded as I remembered it… but I saw only little tubby Bert the head barman and Mr Bartley Dunne’s own somewhat spectral figure that I recognised. Back at 11.15, a little tipsy – dilutior might be a better word – and not lingering by the green urinoir in Eden Quay. My room – no. 18 – is on the front of the hotel, overlooking Talbot Street, and I woke at 3 o’clock and 6 o’clock, though I don’t think it was street noises that disturbed me.

September 11, 1968 (Wednesday):

A fine clear day till near 8 o’clock when dark clouds from the south-east brought a short shower. I was busy today, taking photographs, buying the Austin Gaffney record that Byrne stole in 1965 and I’ve been trying to replace, a spoon with a Dublin crest, and so on, and spending 18/- in fees at the Register Office.

Though food is dear in Dublin, goods are notably cheaper – I paid 2s 8d for a tube of shaving cream, and I see almost all of the luxury sort of goods are priced well below the level to which purchase tax raises them in London.
Dublin’s charm is indefinable, but real; in part it comes from its being a metropolitan city on the right scale. 18th-century London was similar. The hills to the south, that can be seen from the principal streets, seem to close the city in, to make it compact, humanly scaled. Walking is easier, too, with the pavements less thronged than London’s… and the abundance of good-looking young Dublin men is a continual joy to the eye. (The aggressively nasty coffee-bars and snackeries that disfigure O’Connell Street have an abundance of slovenly and unlovely Dublin girls.) I wore my light raincoat this evening, the same coat I brought home bloodstained from Dublin two years ago. It is better and more elegant than the one I have bought since, and like everything that suits me is no longer made.

View from Grattan Bridge (Capel St Bridge) of the Four Courts. Credit: George Lucas/Hugo Greenhalgh

To the St Stephen’s Green lavatory several times, and saw various middle-aged and elderly men, but my assailant of two years ago was not to be seen.
In Bartley Dunne’s, Brian the sturdy friendly barman was serving tonight, and after a moment’s hesitation recognised and greeted me. He remarked that “there have been changes here” and told me that George, that attractive if somewhat pretentious barman I remembered, is now manager of a hotel bar at Dun Laoire (sic)… which is his métier, I think.

I noticed the pink-shirted young man in this bar, and at Burgh Quay there were three or four lounging about. One, a thin youth with spectacles, approached me for a cigarette. Were I bolder, I might do well here; more likely I’d be robbed and knocked unconscious. To bed again before midnight, and slept tolerably well.”

View of Christchurch and Wood Quay from Ordmond Quay. Credit: George Lucas/Hugo Greenhalgh

The Military Service Pensions Collection is a publicly accessible online archive of material relating to the 1916-23 period. For successful applicants, material and correspondence on their file can continue for decades up until the time of their death. A goldmine for first-hand accounts of the revolutionary period, an individual’s application can also occasionally throw up an interesting item which is historic in its own right.

John Adamson (1901-68) served with the Cyclists Company, 3 Battalion, Dublin Brigade, IRA during the War of Independence. He claims to have taken part in arms-raids on private homes and two ambushes of British forces in Portobello, Dublin 8. Taking the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War (June 1922 – May 1923), Adamson served with the same unit and stated that he took part in IRA attacks on the Four Courts Hotel; the home of Lord Glenavy, Milltown; the Grand Central Cinema, O’Connell Street; Portobello Barracks and on National Army troops on the Rathgar Road.

Handwritten reference from James J Ardiff in support of John Adamson dated 07 Sep. 1942 (MSP34REF3861)

Adamson was awarded 3 and 1/6 years service for pension purposes in 1942 at Rank E (Private). He lived for many years at 3 Darley’s Cottages, Vevay Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow and died on 13 Dec. 1968. Following his death, his widow contacted local county councillor Seamus Costello to make representations on her behalf. Buried in the payment file of John Adamson is a one-page hand-written letter from Seamus Costello of Roseville House, Dublin Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow dated 08 March 1968 to the Department of Defence.  The year previously Costello had won a seat on Wicklow county council (and Bray urban district council). In the same month that he wrote the below letter, he had secured over 2,000 first-preference votes in a Dáil by-election.

Representations from Seamus Costello dated 08 May 1968 for the widow of John Adamson. File 34E7936.

Costello, a veteran of the IRA’s Border Campaign, was a leading member of the Official IRA and later the IRSP/INLA in the 1970s. He was shot dead in a feud between the two groups in Fairview in North Dublin in Oct. 1977. A concise biography of Seamus Costello is available at the Dictionary of Irish Biography.

The file of John Adamson and nearly 10,000 others (to date) are available on the MSPC website here.

(Regarding crime and Dublin, the blog has previously looked at 18th century gang violence; joy-riding in Dublin from 1918-39; War of Independence bank-robberies; the 1920s ‘Sons of Dawn‘ who were rounded up by the IRA; the life of career criminal Henchico who died in 1968; ‘Animal Gang’ violence in 1942; vigilante violence in Dublin (1970 – 1984); the Bugsy Malone gangs of the 1970s and Triad gang violence in 1979)

Note: All of the following information was gleaned from online archives of the Irish Press, the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent, the Evening Herald, the Sunday Tribune, the Irish Examiner and (rarely) the Sunday World. I also utilised ‘Smack’ (1985) by Sean Flynn and Padraig Yeates and ‘Badfellas’ (2011) by Paul McWilliams.

This is the second article looking at gangland murders in Dublin that occurred in the decades leading up to the killing of crime boss Martin Cahill (‘The General’) in Aug. 1994 by the Provisional IRA. The last piece looked at 13 deaths related to organised crime and Dublin’s underworld in the 1979-89 period. Now we explore seven killings that took place from 1990 up until the summer of 1994. It’s worth noting of course that the number of gangland killings in Ireland increased heavily from the early 1990s onwards from 3 in 1993, to 10 in 1999, 20 in 2003 and then peaking at 22 in 2009. There were 10 last year in 2019.

Of the seven murders in the 1990-94 period, the attacks occurred in the South Inner City (The Coombe), the North Inner City (Stoneybatter) and suburbs in the west (Blanchardstown) and north (Finglas, Marino, Darndale). One took place during a football match in the Phoenix Park. The youngest victim was 20 and the oldest was 54. What is striking is the average age was 39 – much older than the targets in today’s gangland feuds.

The death of Sonny Mooney was the only case that didn’t involve firearms. It was not strictly a gangland feud hit as he died of injuries received in a personal revenge attack but the media emphasised the tragedy that four young Finglas men – Brian Chaney (Sep. 1988), Thomas Boulger (March 1990), Willie Christie (Sep. 1990) and Sonny Mooney (Oct. 1990) – died violently in a very short time period.

Sean Clarke was the only individual who did not seem to have a criminal record or have connections to organised crime, it appears that he was gunned down for being a suspected child molester. The hit was professional and organised crime was linked.

As I said in the first piece, these articles do not seek to eulogise anyone but instead explore Dublin’s criminal underworld of 30-40 years ago. It maps stories of old Dublin – flat complexes that have been torn down, pubs that have been redeveloped and the names of many young men all but forgotten except for family and close friends. But it sadly also illustrates that many of the same impoverished working-class areas affected by gun violence in the 1970s and 1980s are still some of the same neighbourhoods hit hardest today.

The list does not include:

  • police officers, security guards or civilians killed by criminals during robberies or other incidents
  • victims of internal feuds or suspected informers killed by Republican paramilitaries

As always, if there’s any corrections or cases I’ve missed – please email me or leave a comment.

8 Sep. 1990 – William Christie (Willie Christie) (27)

Father of two William Christie (27), of 12 Barry Drive, Finglas, was described in the press as a small-time criminal and cannabis dealer. He led a “small gang” that robbed “factories and post offices” according to sources quoted in the Sunday Tribune (21. Oct. 1990).

William Christie. Sunday World, 06 Sep. 1992.

Christie had been arrested and charged with the murder of Brian Chaney (see part one) but was released – after four months in custody – when the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) dropped the charge due to a lack of evidence.

On 8 Sep. 1990, Christie was playing in goal for Dublin United F.C. in a football game against Park View Celtic in the Leinster Junior League. The match took place at a pitch in the Fifteen Acres, near St. Mary’s Hospital, in the Phoenix Park. Christie was substituted at half-time and was watching the second half of the match when, at 4.30pm, two men approached from behind. The hitman, who was wearing a balaclava, shot Christie four times in the back of the head with a .38 handgun. He passed the weapon to his accomplice who packed it away into a sports bag. Both men jogged in the direction of the Chapelizod entrance to the park where the police believed they had parked their getaway vehicle.

One of the football spectators owned a mobile phone (relatively rare at the time) and rushed to his car to ring the Gardaí and who were on the scene within minutes. Christie was taken to Blanchardstown Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 5.15pm.

Murder scene at Phoenix Park. The Sunday Tribune, 21 Oct. 1990.

It was originally suggested in the media that the killing was in revenge for the murder of Brian Chaney two years previously but this was quickly discounted by both the authorities and the Chaney family including Brian’s brother Tom Chaney who spoke to the Sunday Tribune (15 Sep. 1990).

Two theories about the killing emerged. The first, as reported in the Sunday Tribune (21 Oct. 1990), was that Christie had been shot dead by the Provisional IRA after he had publicly threatened a local member of the Republican movement in Finglas. However it was mentioned in the same article that a possible suspect, a Finglas man with Republican connections, had denied any involvement and claimed that Christie actually had Republican sympathies. Speculation remained about the Provisional IRA’s possible involvement and it was repeated in the Irish Independent (20 Aug. 1992) who said that Christie had become “tangled” into a dispute with “associates of the IRA” in Finglas and so had “been earmarked as a target”.

The second theory is that Christie was killed by a criminal gang. The Sunday World (30 Dec. 1990) suggested that Christie was killed under orders of a “major crime boss” who hired a professional hitman, possibly from England, to carry out the job. The Sunday Tribune (13 Oct. 1991) later proposed that a “senior IPLO figure” and hitman with links to criminality was paid by a Dublin gang to kill Christie. The Irish Press (18 Jan. 1993) referred to the suspected involvement of a “Dublin heroin dealer” in the attack. Nobody was ever charged or convicted.

In July 1991, William’s brother Peter Christie (26) was sentenced to two years imprisonment for his involvement in a house robbery in Ashbourne. On 8 Nov. 1993, as reported in the press, he was abducted from his girlfriend’s house in Valeview Crescent, Finglas by eight men and found severely beaten behind a Ballymun tower block.

8 Oct. 1990 – Sonny Mooney (20)

Sonny Mooney was born in 1970 to a black father and a white Irish mother. His mother married John Mooney in 1973 and the family moved to Kippure Park, Finglas in 1975 where Sonny was raised by John as one of his own children. A friend, who knew Mooney from growing up, remembered him as the “only black kid in Finglas South” and that he “hung around with us when we were young” rude boys (ska/reggae fans) for a time. A “likeable fella” but he “fell in with the wrong crowd”.

Mooney’s parents told the Sunday Tribune (19 May. 1991) that their son had been a “target of racial abuse” from a young age which had turned him into a “tough” kid and a capable street fighter by his late teens. He was described by police as a petty criminal with convictions for stealing cars and being drunk and disorderly.

On 3 March 1990, his sister’s boyfriend Thomas Boulger (‘Bullit’) (20) got into an altercation with Richard Groves (17) at a local disco. Groves kept a horse on waste ground and blamed Boulger for mistreating the animal. On the night of the incident, Groves stated that he was headbutted by Boulger and then was attacked by him again on his way home. He returned to the scene with a knife and clashed again with Boulger who armed himself with a pole. Boulger was stabbed five times and died of his injuries. Groves was convicted of manslaughter and received a five year suspended sentence.

In Sep. 1990 or thereabouts, Sonny Mooney got into a serious brawl outside a Finglas pub with a man named Stephen Kennedy. Mooney came out on top and won the fight. Another local Finglas man Seamus Duffy, whose sister was in a relationship with Kennedy, vowed to get ‘even’ with Mooney. Duffy worked as a bouncer in the city centre for a number of different nightclubs and fast food restaurants. He enlisted the help of five other bouncers he knew from this line of work for the revenge attack.

On 8 Oct. 1990 at 10pm, six masked men forced their way into the home of Sonny Mooney (20) in Kippure Park, Finglas. They beat him with pick-axe handles in front of his family and bundled him into a blue Hiace van which was later found burnt out. The gang transferred him into a different vehicle and drove towards the Southside. They left the badly wounded Mooney at Ballymount Lane at the junction of Ballymount Road and Greenhills Road near Tallaght. One of the group made an anonymous phone call to the police around 11.30pm and Mooney was found unresponsive by Gardaí. He had died from his injuries. The culprits later claimed that they hadn’t meant to kill Mooney.

Six men were arrested, charged with manslaughter and convicted of the killing:

  • Seamus Duffy (24), Donomore Crescent, Killarnden, Tallaght – six years imprisonment
  • Derek B. (23), Lower Oriel Street, D1 – four years imprisonment
  • David G. (20), Bracken Drive, Portmarnock – four years imprisonment
  • William D. (22), St. Mark’s Grove, Clondalkin – four years imprisonment
  • Emmet R. (19), Ballycurris Road, Ballymun – four years imprisonment
  • David M. (24), Foyle Road, Fairview – 30 months imprisonment (false imprisonment)

The death caused further tension and it was reported in the Sunday Tribune (19 May. 1991) that one of those convicted, David B., was attacked in Mountjoy Prison by an inmate who was friends with Sonny Mooney.

20 Dec. 1991 – Patrick McDonald (‘Teasy-Weasy’) (41)

Patrick McDonald, of Newry, Co. Down, was a member of the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) in the mid 1970s. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment for an armed robbery but whether he served the time is unclear as the Irish Independent (21 Dec. 1991) stated that he went on the run in 1975.

Patrick McDonald. Sunday Tribune, 22 Dec. 1991

A hairdresser by trade, he was called ‘Teasy Weasyafter the 1950s London hairdressing icon Raymond Bessone.

In the early 1980s, McDonald ran a hair salon in Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan and lived in a house on Muckno Street with another INLA man Daniel Hamill (Danny Hamill) (‘The Rabbit’) from Portadown. In 1980, McDonald was charged with demanding £67,000 by menace from Neil Halpin, Monasterboice, Co. Louth and for assaulting Thomas Rooney, Haggardstown, Co. Louth over two separate days in early Jan. of that year. The state dropped the charges and McDonald avoided conviction.

On 13 July 1981, a cattle dealer named Maurice Wilson was driving from Co. Monaghan to his home in Co. Armagh when he came across a border post on fire near Carna, Co. Armagh. He was flagged down by two armed men – Patrick McDonald and Daniel Hamill – who hijacked his car and drove back to Castleblayney where they released Wilson unharmed. The pair were arrested and at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin, McDonald was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for kidnapping, car hijacking and possession of a firearm. Daniel Hamill received eight years for firearm charges.

McDonald was released from Portaloise Prison in Aug. 1989 after serving eight of his ten year sentence. He moved to Dublin and set up a small unisex hair salon above a bookie’s office at 2 St. Aidan’s Park Road, Marino. McDonald rented a basement flat in Castle Avenue, Clontarf and was described as a “snappy dresser who enjoyed the company of women” by the Irish Independent (21 Dec. 1991). He was separated and had a 17-year-old daughter. Police said upon release he became active with the IPLO (Irish People’s Liberation Organisation) which had been formed in 1986 by disaffected and expelled members of the INLA.

The Evening Herald (31 Dec. 1991) stated that in July 1991 three armed men went to St. Joseph’s Mansions flat complex, Killarney Street near the Five Lamps in the North Inner City. After failing to find a specific individual they were looking for, one of the frustrated gang members fired his shotgun at a group of women in the flats. The four, including a 13 year old girl, were hit by shotgun pellets. Police linked this incident to Patrick McDonald, the IPLO and a feud with a North Inner City criminal gang.

On 20 Dec. 1991 at about 5.15pm, McDonald (41) was cutting the hair of a female customer when a lone, masked gunman entered his premises in Marino and shot him six times in the neck and back. He was killed instantly. The customer and a female shop assistant were badly shook up but not injured in the attack.

Scene of Patrick McDonald’s murder. The Irish Press, 21 Dec. 1991.

McDonald received a IPLO guard of honour and this photograph shows IPLO members firing a volley of shots at his funeral in the Derrybeg housing estate, Newry, Co. Down.

IPLO firing a volley of shots at the funeral of Patrick McDonald. Uploaded onto Facebook in 2018 by ‘Exploding Cat’.

The Provisional IRA released a statement denying any involvement in McDonald’s murder while the IPLO said to the press that they would enact revenge for the killing. Four men and two women from the North Inner City were quizzed about the murder but released. The Sunday Tribune (02 July 1995) and many other newspapers linked McDonald’s death to a North Inner City criminal gang and their associates in Swords who had previously been involved with the INLA.

As a side note, McDonald’s former partner-in-crime Danny Hamill was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in 2008 for a bank robbery in Crumlin in 2006.

12 July 1992 – Michael Travers (Mick Travers) (48)

Mick Travers, originally from the North Inner City, was an imposing man. He was over six feet tall, weighed over 16 stone (101kg) and had been a black belt in karate since at least the late 1970s. Travers was linked to a criminal network that ran protection rackets in the areas around North King Street, Mary Street, Capel Street, Parnell Street and Moore Street. It was often said that Travers lived up to his ‘hard man’ image. Some of the well-known stories included the time he was shot in a leg by a police officer in a pub altercation and walked himself to the hospital and in another incident he physically defended himself from a murder attempt and jumped out of a two-storey window to escape his attackers.

Michalel Travers. Sunday Tribune, 19 July 1992.

In the early 1970s and early 1980s, he lived with his family in Marigold Court, Darndale. On 18 Dec. 1978, Travers got into a verbal and physical argument with publican Kevin Rafferty and barman Nicholas Bennett at Raf’s Lounge (since demolished), 177 North King Street at the corner of North Anne Street in Dublin 7. The Evening Herald (08 Dec. 1981) reported that Special Branch officer Michael Hughes had gone to the assistance of the two men and in the ensuing melee shot Travers in the leg with his .38 revolver. The Irish Independent (13 July 1992) claimed that Travers had threatened the officer with a broken bottle during the incident. It was rumoured that the wounded Travers refused the offer of an ambulance and instead walked the 1km or thereabouts to Jervis Street Hospital for treatment. Travers was charged with assault at the Central Criminal Court but was acquitted by a jury in 1981.

In Sep. 1981, Travers was alleged to have assaulted Garda Anthony Gannon and pub manager Mr. Kelly in the Black Sheep pub in the Northside Shopping Centre. As reported in the Irish Independent (22 July 1982), a Circuit Criminal Court judge threw out the case and dismissed the jury because he felt that State’s evidence had “blackened” the accused in the eye of the jurors.

The Irish Independent, 13 July 1992.

On 11 March 1982, Travers escaped a murder attempt at his Kenpo karate club in Wolfe Tone Street when a three man gang burst into the premises. His 16 year-old-daughter managed to shout a warning and the Irish Independent (14 July 1992) recalled how “the club manager grabbed a brush and struck one of the three men while Mr Travers grabbed a chair and hit one gunman as he fired a shot (and) kicked out at one gunman who also opened fire”. Another long-standing rumour is that Travers jumped “from a two-storey window” and ran away from the scene “with two badly injured ankles” as retold by the Irish Press (13 July 1992).

In the 1980s, the father of three lived on Clanmahon Road, Donnycarney. The Irish Press (20 Dec. 1988) announced that Travers and his associate Terence Brazil (30) of St. Mary’s Road, East Wall, had been charged with extorting money from an auctioneer named Mrs. Shirley Nolan. However this key witness “withdrew her allegations just as the Gardaí were preparing to forward a file to the DPP”, according to the Irish Press (13 July 1992), and was believed to have moved to England in fear of her life. This was the only time that authorities came close to a convection for the widespread protection rackets he was believed to have been involved in.

Travers had a number of business interests including a karate club and newsagent in Smithfield until about 1991. He also co-owned a grocery and vegetable shop with Paddy McNeill in Darndale.

Mick Traver’s karate studio in Smithfield, D7. The Irish Independent, 13 July 1992.

On the morning of 12 July 1992, Mick Travers (48) was standing behind the counter of McNeills grocery shop, Ring Road, Darndale when two gunmen entered wearing helmets and visors. They shouted at the shop assistant Willie Darcy and a local milkman to get down on the ground. The hitman shot Travers in the chest at close range and fired at least three more times into his body when he fell to the ground. The two men jumped on a motorbike and escaped from the scene through neighbouring housing estates.

Ann O’Loughlin summed things up in the Sunday Independent (19 July 1992) when she described it as a “another professional, cold-blooded and ruthless slaying – the result of an increasingly intense and lethal rivalry within the capital’s criminal underworld”.

Sunday Tribune, 19 July 1992.

Gardai began to investigate whether a “major pub row” that had “wrecked” The Barry pub in Finglas was connected to the killing. The incident which left “several men injured” occurred about a year previous to the murder and was linked to a protection racket involving Travers according to the Evening Herald (18 July 92). Apparently the IRA-connected pub told Travers that they no longer required his security men on the premises. The resulting melee was vicious and the Sunday World (06 Sep. 1992) reported that one member of the bar staff was stabbed by Travers. This person received “horrific facial injuries” and needed 140 stitches. When Travers apparently refused twice to pay compensation for this incident, he became the target of Provisional IRA according to senior Gardaí.

Other newspaper speculated that Travers fell out with another criminal gang and was killed as a result. The Irish Press (18 July 1993) said that detectives believed the same ‘hitman’ was the prime suspect in the gangland executions of Gerard Hourigan (1983), Danny McOwen (1983) and Patrick McDonald (1991).

Nobody was ever charged or convicted for the murder.

Continue Reading »

(Regarding crime and Dublin, the blog has previously looked at 18th century gang violence; joy-riding in Dublin from 1918-39; War of Independence bank-robberies; the 1920s ‘Sons of Dawn‘ who were rounded up by the IRA; the life of career criminal Henchico who died in 1968; Animal Gang violence in 1942; vigilante violence in Dublin (1970 – 1984); the Bugsy Malone gangs of the 1970s and Triad gang violence in 1979)

Note: I added the murders of Christy Shannon (1979), Patrick Garland (1986) and Barney Murray (1986) after I had published the first version of this article. All of the following information was gleaned from online archives of the Irish Press, the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent, the Evening Herald, the Sunday Tribune, the Irish Examiner and (rarely) the Sunday World. I also utilised ‘Smack’ (1985) by Sean Flynn and Padraig Yeates and ‘Badfellas’ (2011) by Paul McWilliams.

Recent gangland feuds in Dublin and other Irish cities have made newspaper headlines worldwide. The Hutch-Kinahan conflict resulted in the deaths of c. 19 people alone between 2015 and 2018. Many see the starting point of modern gangland carnage as the shooting dead of crime boss Martin Cahill (‘The General’) by the Provisional IRA in 1994 and the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin by criminals two years later. The early 1990s did certainly mark the start of a new bloody chapter. Over the four years between 1991-94, there was 11 gangland murders altogether in Ireland but the first six months of 1995 saw seven killings alone. The numbers rose exponentially in the 2000s and 2010s as criminals became more ruthless and more liable to murder rivals in tit-for-tat killings.

This article is the first in a series on gangland killings that occurred in Dublin pre-1994. It does not seek to eulogise anyone but instead explores Dublin’s criminal underworld of 30-40 years ago. It maps stories of old Dublin – flat complexes that have been torn down, pubs that have been redeveloped and the names of many young men all but forgotten except for family and close friends. But it sadly also illustrates that many of the same impoverished working-class areas affected by gun violence in the 1970s and 1980s are still some of the same neighbourhoods hit hardest today.

There were certainly cases of criminal gangs in Dublin using guns to injure and maim rivals in the 1960s and 1970s but the first murders that I can identify occurred in the late 1970s. The list does not include:

  • police officers, security guards or civilians killed by criminals during robberies or other incidents
  • victims of internal feuds or suspected informers killed by Republican paramilitaries

It includes only individuals who were killed by criminals or suspected criminals. They were for the most part premeditated ‘hits’ and firearms were used in all but one of the murders. If you are aware of any other cases, please email me or leave a comment.

I have identified 13 such murders in Dublin the 1978-89 period. The youngest victim was 15 and the oldest 47. The attacks took place on both sides of the River Liffey in the inner city and Dublin suburbs in the south (Crumlin), west (Blanchardstown) and north (Ballymun, Killester, Cabra).

19 March 1978 – Christopher McAuley (Christy McAuley)

Christy McAuley, of 38 Millbrook Road, Kilbarrack, was arrested in 1976 and charged with conspiring with another person to import arms but he was not convicted of the offence. The following year he was fined for possession of cannabis and cocaine. Police also linked him to a number of armed robberies in the city.

On the night of 19 March 1978, Christy McAuley (25) met another criminal Eamon Saurin (36) in the Celebrity Club night spot on Upper Abbey Street. McAuley gave Saurin and his friend Laurence Maguire (Clicky) a lift home. At the junction of Craigford Avenue and Killester Avenue, Saurin asked that the car be pulled over. He drew a small .32 automatic pistol and shot McAuley twice in the head. McAuley somehow managed to open the door and stagger out onto the road. Saurin followed and fired two more shots. The paranoid Saurin had mistakenly thought that McAuley (who was actually gay) had slept with his girlfriend while he had been on the run. The authorities caught up with Saurin in July 1981 and he was charged with the murder of McAuley. The chief prosecution witness Laurence Maguire (Clicky) refused to give evidence and was imprisoned for a month for contempt. Saurin’s trial was rescheduled but Maguire failed to turn up and the case subsequently collapsed.

Christy McCauley. The Irish Press, 21 March 1978.

Saurin was described in the book ‘Smack’ (1985) by Sean Flynn and Padraig Yeates as a “well-known robber” originally from Liberty House off Sean MacDermott Street. The family moved out to 8 Glencorp Road, Whitehall and the teenage Saurin picked up his first conviction in 1964. He was based at 25 Clanree Road, Donnycarney in the mid 1970s. Saurin was described in ‘Badfellas’ (2011) by Paul McWilliams as “one of the first criminals credited with smuggling commercial shipments of cannabis and heroin from Amsterdam into Ireland in the late 1970s”. While he got away with the McAuley murder, Saurin was immediately extradited to England where he was jailed for life in 1983 for the murder of his former neighbour Kenneth Adams (32) in Birmingham on 6 Nov. 1972.

In Sep. 1981, Christy McAuley’s brother Anthony was injured in a shooting in O’Neill’s pub, Summerhill Parade. On 19 Sep, two masked gunmen – armed with a .32 automatic pistol and a sawn-off shotgun- entered the premises looking for one or two specific people. In the incident, a total of four men were wounded – Anthony McAuley, Andrew Corbally, Nicholas Wynne and Kevin Brennan. It’s unclear as to who the original targets were but police told the Irish Press (18 Sep. 1981) that it was linked to a gangland feud.

25 April 1979 – Basil English

Basil English, of 95 Harmonstown Road, Artane had a long criminal rap-sheet history going back to 1964. On the night of 25 April 1979, he was shot through the head at point-blank range inside the doorway of an eight-story flat in a Ballymun tower block addressed 184 Sillogue Road. English (33) was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. The Evening Herald (26 April 1979) described it as a “gangland slaying” and reported that the police believed the murder was connected to an “internal gangland feud”.

Basil English. The Irish Press, 27 April 1979.

The main suspect, Thomas Tyrell (21) (aka Tommy Tyrell), of 47 Ribh Road, Artane, barricaded himself into a Ballymun flat for five days and threatened to kill himself before he eventually surrendered to the Gardaí. It transpired that Tyrell was dating English’s ex. girlfriend so there might have been a jealousy/personal aspect to the killing. Both men were supposed to have been heavily intoxicated on the night in question. Tyrell was sentenced to three years imprisonment for possession of a .32 revolver and ammunition but the manslaughter charge sentencing was postponed to July 1980 following psychiatric treatment and evaluation.

Thomas Tyrell following the five-day siege. The Irish Independent, 16 Oct. 1979.

Tyrell was released on 13 Jan. 1982 after serving two years for the manslaughter of Basil English. He was involved in another shooting incident just weeks after he was let out of prison. On 25 Feb. 1982, Tyrell shot and wounded Edward Charles McGuinness with a double-barreled shotgun at the doorway of McGuinness’ flat at 324 Sillogue Road, Ballymun. Tyrell, who had 25 previous convictions, pleaded guilty to the charge of malicious wounding and was sentenced to four years imprisonment.

18 Oct. 1979 – Christopher Shannon (Christy Shannon)

Christy Shannon was originally from Lower Dorset Street in the North Inner City. In the 1970s, he lived with his wife Breda and seven children at 3 Shangan Gardens, Ballymun.

In Sep. 1977, Mrs. Breda Shannon (38) went missing and the strange case was covered in the national press. The Irish Independent (27 Sep. 1977) stated that she had “not been seen since she discharged” herself from the Cuan Mhuire rehabilitation centre for recovering alcoholics in Athy, Co. Kildare on 9 Sep. In the Evening Herald (20 Sep. 1977), her husband Christy Shannon “appealed” to his wife to “return home and look after the children”. Nothing further was reported in the press over the next two years.

On 18 Oct. 1979, the body of Christy Shannon (43) was found by police in a stolen Ford Granada car in a laneway behind the Nally Stand, Croke Park. He had been shot twice in the face and neck at point-blank range with a shotgun by somebody in the driver’s seat. Shannon had previous convictions for burglary and larceny. The Evening Herald (22 Oct. 1979) noted that the police were searching the homes and haunts of known Dublin criminals” to question about the murder.

Death notice for Christopher Shannon. The Evening Herald, 22. Oct. 1979.

The Irish Independent (03 Nov. 1979) published a photograph of Mrs. Breda Shannon under the heading: “‘Come home’ plea to Croke Park murder wife”. The piece claimed that Mrs. Shannon “disappeared from her home” in Ballymun and “has not been seen since”. The Cuan Mhuire rehabilitation centre was not mentioned. The police believed that she “may still be in the country but it is thought she may be unaware that her husband is dead”. The Irish Press (04 Nov. 1979) claimed that the police believed that she “might have gone to England”.

But then the Evening Herald (12 Dec. 1979) included a one line buried in a larger piece about the murder indicating that “Mrs Shannon’s wife was contacted in London, but she was not able to shed any light on her husband’s activities or associates”. So it appears that Breda Shannon left her husband and children in Dublin in 1977 and was found by police in London two years later but there doesn’t seem to be any other evidence besides that one short mention.

It was reported in the Irish Examiner (27 Jan. 1981) that the Gardaí had interviewed between 400 and 500 people in relation to the Christy Shannon murder case and had considered up to 30 people as possible subjects. The police arrested Laurence Cummins (Larry Cummins) (32) of Summerhill Parade and charged him with the murder. Cummins had multiple convictions going back to 1961. The police found a set of keys in Cummins’ home which belonged to the Ford Granada car in which Christy Shannon’s body had been found.

In court, Cummins denied that he was responsible but admitted that he had lent his shotgun and a car to a criminal associate named Frank Hughes. The Irish Independent (20 July 1982) stated:

The accused said that his friend Frank Hughes remarked that Shannon was dangerous and there was only one way to finish him and “to finish him right”. Cummins said that on the day Christy Shannon was killed he was in the pub about 9.30pm when Frank Hughes came in (and) said he had done the message, and the accused knew Christy Shannon had been killed.

The Irish Independent (22 July 1982) reported that Cummins had told police that Christy Shannon had been charged for breaking up a taxi owned by the father of Frank Hughes. The jury “failed to reach a verdict” in the first trial in Jan. 1981 and Cummins was found ‘not guilty’ and acquitted of the murder in a second trial in July 1982. It is unclear whether Frank Hughes was arrested.

Cummins served many prison sentences in the 1980s and 1990s and had convictions for drug dealing, armed robbery, possession of firearms, assault and receiving stolen goods. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in July 2006 for his role in the robbery and shooting of the publican Charlie Chawke at the Goat Grill pub in Goatstown in 2003. Cummins died after a long illness in 2009 while serving his sentence in Mountjoy Prison.

17 Sep. 1980John Kelly (Jackie Kelly)

Jackie Kelly, of 9 St Andrew’s Court off Fenian Street in Dublin’s South Inner City, was married and had a two-year-old son. He had worked for about eight years as a postman in the Donnybrook area. He started a position as a telephone operator for the Irish Taxi Owners Co-Op in the summer of 1980. On the night of 17 Sep. 1980, Kelly (24) was watching a UEFA cup match between Polish club Widzew Łódź and Manchester United on the television in Grace’s pub at the corner of Townsend Street and Shaw Street near Pearse Street. There were about 15 other customers in the bar. At around 10.50pm, a man in a motorcycle helmet walked into the premises and fired a number of shots at Kelly who was sitting with two friends at a lounge window. The gunman left the bar but immediately returned and shot Kelly again.

Scene outside Grace’s pub on Townsend St. where Jackie Kelly was murdered. The Evening Herald, 18 Sep 1980.

The assassin’s mask, motorcycle helmet, jacket and a sawn-off shotgun (not used in the attack) was found in a rubbish chute in nearby Markievicz House. The .32 pistol used in the murder was later discovered in a county council dump in Ballyogan near Dundrum.

Kelly, who was shot a total of five times, was interviewed by police in his hospital bed but died of his injuries ten days later on 27 Sep. 1980 in St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Kelly’s widow described her husband as a “quiet family man” who “played football” but “devoted most of his spare time to his family”. He had no known connections to organised crime and Gardaí were unable to find an apparent motive for the killing.

Grace’s pub was destroyed in a suspicious fire in Nov. 1983. Another pub on the street, The Countess, had burnt to the ground earlier that same year. A local criminal gang engaged in protection rackets were suspected.

The Irish Press (18 April 1993) described the Kelly murder as an “underworld killing” and stated that the police were “convinced a notorious south city gang leader personally carried out the killing as a favour for a friend”. Nobody was ever convicted of the murder.

26 May 1982 – Gerard Morgan

Gerard Morgan (15) was shot dead as he came to the front door of his family home at 22 Lismore Road, Crumlin on 26 May 1982. It is believed that his older brother Alan Morgan (17) was the intended target. Alan had allegedly fallen out with a criminal gang over the missing proceeds of a bank robbery in Drumcondra in Feb. 1982. There had been a previous gun attack on the Morgan home on 9 March 1982 when five shots were fired.

Patrick Conroy was sentenced in 1983 to seven years in jail for being an accessory to murder by providing shelter to the killer. Michael McDonnell, of 6 Dermot O’Dwyer House, Hardwicke Street, was arrested for the murder but the state dropped the charge and he was not convicted.

Front page story regarding Gerard Morgan’s murder. The Evening Herald, 26 May 1982.

Continue Reading »

The Royal British Legion (RBL) is a charity, founded in 1921, to provide financial and social support to members and veterans of the British Armed Forces. It’s best known for its annual red poppy fund-raising drive in the run up to Remembrance Sunday (11 November).

During the 20th century, the Legion operated a number of social halls throughout the island of Ireland. The organisation peaked in the late 1920s with a membership of just over 4,200.

Many Legion Halls were targeted by the IRA during the 1930s with premises being burnt down in Killaloe, Co. Clare (June 1933); Boyle, Co. Roscommon (Jan 1934) and Killarney, Co. Kerry (March 1934). A raid also took place on a Legion Hall in Park Street, Dundalk, Co. Louth in Nov 1935.

This is an attempt to list and map the halls which were based in the counties of Dublin and Wicklow. If you have any further information, please leave a comment or email me.

I have divided the list into:

  1. Dublin City
  2. Dublin North
  3. Dublin South
  4. Wicklow
  5. Other

1. D U B L I N – C I T Y

The Legion operated a social hall at 61 Mountjoy Square in the 1920s and early 1930s. The club was fined £40 in 1931 for selling liquor after hours.

Evening Herald, 14 March 1930

The British Legion’s main administration office during this period was based at 28 Harcourt Street (1930s/1940s) and later 44 Upper Mount Street (1940s/1950s).

Irish National War Memorial Committee. Correspondence between Major J.J. Tynan, Area Secretary, British Legion in Ireland and [Miss H.G. Wilson], Secretary, Irish National War Memorial Committee, 1937. Source: DRI

From the mid 1930s and into the early 1960s, the Legion operated a hall at 19 Bachelor’s Walk near O’Connell Bridge:

Dublin Evening Mail, 07 Oct 1950

From the mid 1960s onwards, the Dublin Central Branch ran a social club at 4 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. The premises had previously been in possession of the Catholic Seamen’s Institute.

On 24 February 1966, attempts were made to burn down the Legion Club by Irish republicans. On 1 March, petrol bombs were thrown at the home of Brigadier RN Thicknesse, British Military Attache, at 71 Eglinton Road, Donnybrook. The kitchen of the house was badly damaged in the incident. The same individuals were linked to the bomb attack on Nelson’s Pillar a week later. It is suspected that those responsible were instrumental in the forming of Saor Eire in 1967.

The Legion Club on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay’s quietly operated behind the scenes during the conflict in the North and was open until about 2001.

2. D U B L I N – N O R T H


There is a short reference online to a Legion Hall in Skerries Street, Balbriggan.

Skerries Street, Balbriggan in c. 1897-1913. Source: OSI Map.

Killester (Free standing structure at green space at Abbeyfield)

Between 1918-1922, over 240 houses were built in the emerging suburb of Killester for ex-British servicemen and their families. Historian Jason Robert Myers attractively described the scheme as possessing “a rural serenity, replete with gently winding roads, cozy cul-de-sacs, individual yards in the front and back of each property, several community gathering places, and plenty of trees.” This video shows hundreds of ex British army soldiers marking Remembrance Day in November 1923 in Killester:

A community hall was built by the Legion for local men and their families. It was targeted by the IRA in an arson attack in April 1928. In August 1932, the Lord Mayor of Dublin Alfred Byrne officially opened a newly built hall in front of a “large gathering of ex Servicemen and friends”. It was described by The Irish Times (29 Aug 1932) as a “commodious building, handsomely finished and equipped in every suitable way”. General Sir William Hickie told the crowd that the British Legion would remain “non political and non sectarian”.

Notice of politician Peadar Cowan speaking at the Legion Hall, Killester. Ref: Dublin Evening Mail, 13 June 1955

This undated photograph shows the Legion Hall in Killester which is situated in a green area at Middle Third and Abbeyfield.

Legion Hall, Killester. nd. Source – https://wfadublin.webs.com/

The hall was sold by the British Legion around 1982 according to information online 
but it continued to be used by local people for sport and community events. Known locally as Judo Hall, the building was put up for sale in 2014 for €50,000. After a local campaign, the hall was saved from destruction but remains unused.

There are references to Legion Halls in Donabate and Swords including in this newspaper notice from Sean Dunne TD in 1962. I cannot find any more information online. Could these have been Legion of Mary halls?

Drogheda Independent, 10 March 1962.

3. D U B L I N – S O U T H

Dún Laoghaire (3 Crosthwaite Terrace off Clarinda Park West)

The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) owned this impressive house from about 1914 until 1930 when it was then taken over by the British Legion Club (Kingstown Branch). In the mid 20th century, the Legion built a flat roofed, single storey, clubhouse at the rear of the building. It played host to fencing championships and the annual Clarinda Fair throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

The club was quietly active over the next decades. It’s one foray in the spotlight occurred in 2003 when a case was brought before the Dublin District Court by the club’s neighbours who complained of “stomping, whooping, handclaps and amplified music” at weekly line dancing (Tuesdays) and jazz (Friday) nights held in the venue. Judge Terence Finn told the Legion that they risked having their licence revoked if they did not deal with the noise complaints.

The Legion sold the building in 2005 and the new owners applied to to demolish the clubhouse in 2009. The house was put up for sale in 2013 for €995,000.

Interior of the British Legion Hall, Dún Laoghaire. Source – http://planning.dlrcoco.ie/

Harold’s Cross

There is a brief mention of a Legion hut on Clareville Road, Harold’s Cross in 1951 but I can’t find anymore information.

Inchicore  (Free standing structure at Granite Terrace)

On 5 November 1927, a Legion Hall was opened on a green area beside Granite Terrace in Inchicore for the use of members of the Legion’s Great Southern Railways Branch. The building was completely destroyed five days later in an arson attack by Irish republicans causing £1000 damage.

Burning of Legion Hall, Inchicore. Belfast Telegraph, 10 Nov 1927

The hall was rebuilt circa 1929 and it was was targeted again by the IRA elements in November of that year:

Attack on Legion Hall, Inchicore. Donegal News, 16 Nov 1929

The hall was repaired and became a popular spot for dancing in the early 1930s:

Evening Herald, 29 Nov 1933.

Today it is home to the CIE Boxing Club and is where Bernard Dunne started his boxing career at the age of five in the mid 1980s.

CIE Boxing Club, Granite Terrace, Inchicore. Source: Google Street View, 2009


A small wooden hut, used by the Legion on Whitechurch Road, Rathfarnham, was burnt down in the early morning of Remembrance Sunday, 11 November 1934. Compensation of £140 was later granted to the Club Secretary Joseph Bently in the Dublin Circuit Court.

Legion Hall, Rathfarnham. Source: 12 Nov 1934, Irish Independent.


The Shankill & Ballybrack branch of British Legion opened a hall on the New Road, Shankill around 1930. In 1936, John Dunstane Wallis of Dorney Court, Shankill applied for a public dancing license for the hall. No further information is available.

Legion Hall, Shankill. 19 Aug 1936, Irish Independent

4. W I C K L OW


The Bray Branch of the Legion opened its headquarters in the basement of 12 Goldsmith Terrace, Quinsboro Road in late 1929. The Irish Times (18 Oct 1929) noted that their premises had a billiard and card room, a room for “women’s work” and offices. There was no bar. In the 1930s, the Bray Branch moved their headquarters nearby to Galtrim House where it held events until the 1950s at least. A 2012 Sunday Independent article states that coach Johnny Maloney started a boxing club in Bray in the 1960s in the “British Legion Hall”. Was this Galtrim House? The building was gutted by a fire in 1984.

Legion Hall, Bray. Wicklow People, 13 Nov 1937


The Enniskerry Branch of the Legion opened a social hall on the Old Bray Road in August 1931. It was a popular spot for dances in the decades ahead. The building is still standing today and is used as a community centre.

Legion Hall, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow. Source: Google Street View, 2019

5. Other

There is a ‘Somme Room’ (dedicated to Irishmen who took part in the Battle of the Somme) in the City of Dublin Working Men’s Club, 33 Little Strand Street off Capel Street and there is also British army memorabilia on the walls of the Dublin Conservative Club, 20 Camden Row, Dublin 8.  See my previous article on Private Bars and Social Clubs.

The RAF Association operated a bar at 23 Earlsfort Terrace near St. Stephen’s Green. A petrol bomb was thrown at the building in September 1967 causing no significance damage. Following the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in January 1972, the Club was attacked again with molotov cocktails and its windows were smashed. It appears that the club closed its Earlsfort Terrace bar around this period and moved operations to the British Legion’s club in Dún Laoghaire.

The Rathfarnham War Memorial Hall was opened in 1923 to commemorate local residents who were killed in the First World War. It is connected to the Rathfarnham anglican church which is situated about 1km away from the building.

Rathfarnham War Memorial Hall. Source: http://www.irishwarmemorials.ie/



CHTM: A flavour of year ten

Edit: This is my final post on CHTM. Thanks for your readership of my posts over the last decade! Stay in touch! My new podcast, Three Castles Burning, is available on all podcast platforms.


CHTM was established in the winter of 2009. It is difficult to believe that a decade has passed. In signing off for the year personally, this post seeks to give a sense of some of what we published in 2019. While less busy than in previous years content wise, the quality was high! We thank readers for their continued support, their comments (which often really add to pieces) and their engagement with the blog across its various platforms.

Revolutionary period:

Much of our 2019 content focused on the revolutionary period. These posts included Surrey House, Rathmines (home of Constance Markievicz), food distribution during the revolution and the day the Volunteers stole pigs set for export, May Day during the War of Independence, the Munitions Strike (the centenary of which is fast approaching) and the Bachelors Walk massacre.


Some of the most interesting comments this year came on a piece exploring multiracial bands in Irish musical history, while other musical pieces focused on anniversaries, including the centenary of An Fear Ceoil, Seamus Ennis. Original Pirate Material explored the bootleg tapes of O’Connell Bridge, while there was also the great Earl Gill. There was the return of legendary Dublin band The Atrix to celebrate, too.


1928 coverage of the Liffey Swim, Irish Independent.

Architecture and Built Heritage:

Architecture was more prominent this year than before on the blog. Posts examined the George’s Street Arcade, Deirdre Kelly who fought so bravely for Dublin, the unlikely meeting place of the Dublin United Tramways Company and ALDI and the emergence of Lord Edward Street. Monuments remained a feature of the site, including Big Jim.

Public Houses, Social History and Gach Rud Éile.

A popular post from the start of the year concerned early houses (fewer, but still in existence), while there was also the curious tale of The Zodiac. It was goodbye to Hector Grey’s, a century of the Liffey Swim, and we remembered the Pike Theatre, a lost (and tiny) Dublin institution. We had migration, white horses and censorship in there too.

Thanks to all who engaged with the blog in 2019. Be sure to check out Three Castles Burning, a new Podcast I hope captures some of the spirit of CHTM, and remember CHTM books Volume 1 and 2 are available in all good bookshops now, and would look fantastic under any Christmas tree!


buildingsofireland.ie image of Crow Street

Crow Street is one of my favourite streets in Dublin. You could easily miss it, but if you venture down Dame Street and turn into it, you’ll find one of the most colourful streets in the capital in terms of the diversity of independent businesses there. All City Records, Classic Ink Tattoos and other long-established businesses are there. While within the Temple Bar area, it has avoided the crassness of much of the district.

The street has an interesting history,going back to the Crow Street Theatre of the eighteenth century, and it was the home of the Charitable Musical Society, centrally important to the visit of Handel to Dublin. That’s not why we’re here today though.

In revolutionary times, the street was fundamentally important to the intelligence war. At 3 Crow Street, what appeared to the public to be only a legtimate printing company was the headquarters of the Irish Republican Army’s intelligence campaign.J .F Fowler’s printers had long been in the printing business, its name appearing in 1850s Dublin editions of books, but there was other business apace in different parts of the building. Republican Frank Thornton recounted that:

The first office opened by G.H.Q. Intelligence in the city was over Fowler’s in Crow Street, Off Dame Street, which was right bang up against Dublin Castle. Here, Liam Tobin, Tom Cullen, myself, together with Frank Saurin,Charlie Dalton, Charlie Byrne, Joe Guilfoyle, started off our Operations.

The Crow Street operation was in business from the summer of 1919. By this time, things were heating up in Dublin, with IRA assassination teams (broadly remembered in Irish history as ‘The Squad’) striking against intelligence police targets on the streets. Republican Charlie Dalton, in his memoir of the period, recounted how:

…one of the Squad called on me and asked me to accompany him. ‘The assistant director of intelligence wants to interview me’, he told me. He brought me into the city and through a number of side streets to Crow Street, an alleyway off Dame Street, quite close to Dublin Castle – the stronghold of the enemy. When we came to a small printer’s shop he beckoned me up the stairs, and on the second floor he knocked on the door….After a little delay, a door was opened and we were admitted. There were three or four other Volunteers inside, some of whom I knew slightly, I noticed there were stacks of newspapers lying around.

Newspapers were the least of the material in 3 Crow Street. Intelligence workers were figuring out how to crack the codes of Crown Forces, while as Dalton (who accepted a position) remembered, “we compile a list of friendly persons in the public services, railways, mailboats and hotels. I was sent constantly to interview stewards, reporters, waiters and hotel porters to verify our reports of the movement of enemy agents.”

Race meetings, fashionable hotels like the Shelbourne Hotel, and restaurants like Kidd’s Buffet were all known to be popular spots for members of the British forces and crown services to gather. Still, the most significant job for 3 Crow Street was to get an idea of just what was happening inside Dublin Castle.

In this regard, Lily Mernin was key. Born in Dublin in 1888, but raised primarily in Waterford, Lily worked as a shorthand typist inside Dublin Castle. In 1919, she made contact with the republican movement, leading to Michael Collins meeting her at her home, where she agreed to become an intelligence agent. As Dominic Price has noted, this was an incredible coup:

Situated in the same building as Mernin was the British Army’s intelligence department. This gave her access to officially classified information such as official reports, troop strengths, British army raids and information on the identity and addresses of British secret service personnel. She also picked up a great deal of information on physical descriptions, social habits and activities of British and RIC personnel through friendships and gerneral ‘loose talk’ among Castle employees.


Lily Mernin, photographed with Piaras Beaslai. (Image: National Library of Ireland)

Mernin, codenamed ‘The Little Gentleman’, got down to work. Quickly she solved one mystery, as key republicans were being sent death threats on official Dáil Éireann notepaper. Not only did Merin discover where in the Castle they were coming from, she found the very typewriter. Bravely, she attended social functions as a means of gathering information.

Striking against British intelligence operatives, and the Dublin Metropolitan Police ‘G Division’ in particular, was of paramount importance.The much-feared ‘G Men’ had been centrally important to identifying ringleaders of the Rising, and their ‘Movement of Extremist’ files demonstrate just how much the British state knew about republican radicals. As far as the republican movement were concerned, these men either had to turn or be elimated. Collins later justified this by explaining the key difference between an intelligence officer – or a spy – and a regular soldier:

Without her spies England was helpless… Spies are not so ready to step into the shoes of their departed confederates as are soldiers to fill up the front line in honourable battle. And, even when the new spy stepped into the shoes of the old one, he could not step into the old one’s knowledge… We struck at individuals, and by doing so we cut their lines of communication, and we shook their morale.

Operations at 3 Crow Street were overseen by a team that included Liam Tobin, who had served at the Four Courts during the Rising, Tom Cullen and Frank Thornton. Collins, though in almost constant contact with this team, did not frequent the premises.

Intelligence gathering was a two way street of course. Secret republican munitions factories, Dáil ministry offices and more besides were constantly being raided throughout the period. In time, the Crow Street operation folded, moving to Great Brunswick Street, where the sign “O’Donoghue & Smith, Manufacturing Agents” was over the door.

Fowler’s business survived the revolutionary period. There is nothing marking the building today as a site of such importance in the Irish revolution, but that is true of so much of the city centre core, where revolution was plotted behind quiet doors.

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