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The Dead of the Irish Revolution

Eunan O’Halpin and Daithí Ó Corráin

Last year, Yale University Press was pleased to publish The Dead of the Irish Revolution, an account that covers the turbulent period from the 1916 Rising to the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921—a period which saw the achievement of independence for most of nationalist Ireland and the establishment of Northern Ireland as a self-governing province of the United Kingdom. Separatists fought for independence against government forces and, in North East Ulster, armed loyalists. Civilians suffered violence from all combatants, sometimes as collateral damage, often as targets.

Authors Eunan O’Halpin and Daithí Ó Corráin catalogue and analyze the deaths of all men, women, and children who died during the revolutionary years—505 in 1916; 2,344 between 1917 and 1921. This study provides a unique and comprehensive picture of everyone who died: in what manner, by whose hands, and why. Through their stories we obtain original insight into the Irish revolution itself. The following excerpt provides an account of the first deaths occurring on the 21stof April, 1916. 


Cornelius Keating (21Apr1916/1)
IV, 22, Wireless operator, RC
Ballykissane, Killorglin, Kerry

‘Con’ Keating, a farmer’s son from Renard, Cahirciveen, Kerry, studied agriculture at the Glasnevin Model Farm, then trained as a wireless operator in the Atlantic College in Cahirciveen.

Denis Daly recalled that about mid-April 1916 he and Keating discussed with Seán Mac Diarmada and Michael Collins† setting up a radio transmitter at Ballyard, Tralee, using equipment stolen from the Atlantic College. Men would seize the equipment and give it to Tralee Volunteers. The intention apparently was to contact the German arms ship Aud, although in fact it did not have a radio. Alternatively, the plan may have been to radio the German submarine U-19, expected with Roger Casement and two others.

Daly led a party consisting of Keating, Dan Sheehan, Charlie Monaghan and Colm Ó Lochlainn. They took a train to Killarney, and were collected by two motor cars sent from Limerick on ‘a very wet bad night’. Tom McInerney drove Sheehan, Monaghan and Keating, with the others in Sam Windrim’s car. Only Windrim’s car made it to Cahirciveen; as Keating was the only wireless expert, the mission was abandoned. Daly returned to Dublin and only found out what had happened from the Sunday Independent. He fought in the GPO.

McInerney’s car was stopped by an RIC man outside Killorglin, but Keating scared him off with a revolver. Crossing the bridge over the River Laune, the car drove on towards Ballykissane Pier instead of veering left at the church. McInerney asked if they were on the right road: perhaps shaken by the encounter with the police, Keating said yes. The car drove straight off the pier at about 21:45, overturning in the water. McInerney managed to escape. His three passengers were drowned. The bodies of Keating and Sheehan were recovered by fishermen the following day. Monaghan’s corpse was only found on a nearby island on 30 October. After the Rising, McInerney was arrested and interned in Frongoch.

An inquest jury returned a verdict of ‘death by drowning’, recommending that a chain be placed across the entrance to the quay. Buried Keelavarnogue Cemetery, Cahirciveen, Kerry. In 1925 his widowed mother Nora received a gratuity of £75. In 1957 an unmarried sister failed in a claim for a dependent’s allowance. A monument was erected at Ballykissane, and a second was unveiled in 2016.

RD: Monaghan (21Apr1916/2), Sheehan (21Apr1916/3). SA: Casement (3Aug1916/1), Mac Diarmada (12May1916/1)


Charles Monaghan (21Apr1916/2)
IV, 37, Mechanic, RC
Ballykissane, Killorglin, Kerry

See Keating (21Apr1916/1). ‘Charlie’ Monaghan from Ballymacarett attended the CBS on Oxford Street, Belfast. At eighteen, he went to Dublin, later spending a year in the US. A machinist, Monaghan also had a motor car business. A member of the GAA and the Gaelic League, he lived in Fairview, Dublin. Buried Dromavalla Cemetery, Killorglin, Kerry.


Daniel (Dómhnall) Sheehan (21Apr1916/3)
IV, 30, Bookkeeper, RC
Ballykissane, Killorglin, Kerry

See Keating (21Apr1916/1). Sheehan, from Ballintubrid, Newcastle West, Limerick, was a bookkeeper in the Savoy Hotel in London until the outbreak of war. Cis Sheehan (Mrs Michael Cremen), a Cumann na mBan organiser, recalled ‘a very quiet, reserved man with fiery red hair’ attending Irish classes. The last time she saw him he passed her a note during a class stating, ‘I am off to Dublin.’ There he worked in the post office. He joined the Kimmage Garrison, consisting of men from Liverpool, London, Manchester and Glasgow who had returned to Ireland to avoid conscription. Buried Dromavalla Cemetery, Killorglin, Kerry. In 1927 his father Martin secured a gratuity of £150.

From The Dead of the Irish Revolution by Eunan O’Halpin and Daithí Ó Corráin. Published by Yale University Press in 2020. Reproduced with permission.


Eunan O’Halpin is Bank of Ireland Chair (1999) of Contemporary Irish History at Trinity College Dublin. Daithí Ó Corráin lectures in the School of History and Geography, Dublin City University.


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