Kevin Barry

Life
1902-20 [Kevin Gerard Barry]; b. 20 Jan., Dublin; son of thomas Barry, a farmer from Hackettstown, Co. Carlow, who ran a dairy shop in Fleet St., Dublin, where the family lived - his father having died in 1908 aetat. 56); ed. Rathvilly, Co. Carlow; St. Mary’s College, Rathmines, afterwards at Belvedere School [aetat. 13] and UCD; participated in commemoration of the Manchester Martyrs, 1915 [aetat 13]; sought to join the Fianna na hEireann at 13 and dissuaded by his family; joined the IRA, Oct. 1917 [aetat 15]; played in Belvedere Senior Rugby team, having helped to win the Junior Rugby Cup; Sec. of the school hurling club; won Dublin Corporation Scholarship to UCD, studying medicine; joined Clarke Luby Club of the IRB; saw active service in several raids including the capture o the arms of the King’s Inns barracks (25 rifles, 2 light machine guns & ammunition); released the captive soldiers; appt. Section Commander; took part in an ambush on an army truck collecting bread from Monk’s Bakery in Church St., Dublin, when two British soldiers were fatally injured (Privates Whitehead and Humphries), another dying at the scene (Privates Washington), 20 Sept., 1920;

captured immediately after sheltering from fire under the lorry, his .38 Parabellum having jammed; mishandled by army personnel in North Dublin Union [barracks]; held to be in possession of dum-dum bullets; tried by court-martial on 20 Oct., being accused of the death of Private Whitehead - who was known to have died from a .45 bullet; refused to recognised the court ‘as a soldier of the Republic’; sentenced to death - the sentence being announced afterwards in his cell at Mountjoy and made public on 28 Oct.; the sentence was made the object of a propaganda war on account of his young age but carried out (by Ellis) in spite of wide objections, including a letter from Arthur Griffith addressed to ‘the civilised nations of the world’ and citing the release of soldiers at the King’s Inns - and another from Erskine Childers, calling the sentence an ‘outrage’ [see infra]; Barry was disappointed in his wish for a firing squad and hanged in Mountjoy Jail on 1 Nov. 1920, going to gallows with ‘callous composure’ - according to a Castle official but called ‘one of the bravest and best boys [he had] ever known’ whose death was ‘one of the holiest’ (Canon Waters); his execution, following two days after the death of Terence MacSwiney (on hunger strike) precipitated an intensification in the IRA campaign;

Thomas MacGreevy successfully petitioned the Provost of Trinity to make an appeal on Barry’s part; buried in Kilmainham prison yard; reinterred, along with 9 others executed there during 1920-21, in Nov. 2001; Barry became the subject of well-known ballad (‘Kevin Barry gave his young life / for the cause of liberty ...’); there is commemorative plaque in Church St.; a stained-glass window by Richard King of the Harry Clarke Studio, was raised in UCD on Earlsfort Terrace, and later removed to the Belfield Campus (Donnybrook) in 2007; there is a modern monument at Rathvilly; a 6p commemorative stamp was issued at the fiftieth anniversary of his death, showing the well-known detail of Barry in Belvedere rugby colours; The Kevin Barry Memorial Hall, Dublin, is the Irish historian Eunan O’Halpin is a grand-nephew.

Exhumation: the bodies of the Barry and 9 other men executed by the British in Mountjoy during 1920-21 were exhumed in Nov. 2001 and reinterred in graves chosen by their families, or by themselves in two instances. The funeral procession, ending at the Republican plot in Glasnevin, was attended by Mary McAleese, President of Ireland, as well as the entire cabinet of the Fianna Fáil government - then on the even of a general election. Conflicting attitudes towards the gestures were registered in the press. The names of the others executed Barry were Thomas Whelan; Patrick Moran; Patrick Doyle, Bernard Ryan, Frank Flood, Thomas Bryan (all the foregoing on 14 March 1921); Thomas Traynor (25 April 1921); Edmund Foley and Patrick Maher (7 June 1921) - the last-named jointly issuing a statement that included the words, ‘Our souls go to God at 7.00 in the morning, and our bodies when Ireland is free shall go to Galbally.’ Note: reportage on same page that the bodies were found intact, easily identified, and with no signs of torture prior to execution.

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Criticism
C.M’N. [Conor MacNessa,] Our Martyr Boy: Kevin Barry, Victim of Britonism in Ireland (Buenos Aires 1921), poem, 8pp., with port. P. J. Ryan, arr., Kevin Barry: Irish Ballad (Dublin: Walton’s Piano & Musical Instrument Galleries [1950]), [3]p[. [score] Gerard Westby, Kevin Barry: A Play in One Act (Dublin: P. J. Bourke [1953]), 23pp.; Sean Cronin, The Story of Kevin Barry (Cork: National Publications Committee 1965), 48pp.

See also Eunan O’Halpin, ‘Secret contacts failed to prevent executions’, in The Irish Times (13 Oct. 2001), p.7; note conflicting views about reinterment under Commentary [as infra].

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Commentary

The Ballad of Kevin Barry  
In Mountjoy jail one Monday morning
High upon the gallows tree,
Kevin Barry gave his young life
For the cause of liberty.
But a lad of eighteen summers,
Still there’s no one can deny,
As he walked to death that morning,
He proudly held his head on high.

Just before he faced the hangman,
In his dreary prison cell,
The Black and Tans tortured Barry,
Just because he wouldn’t tell.
The names of his brave comrades,
And other things they wished to know.
“Turn informer and we’ll free you”
Kevin Barry answered, “No”.

“Shoot me like a soldier.
Do not hang me like a dog,
For I fought to free old Ireland
On that still September morn.
All around the little bakery
Where we fought them hand to hand,
Shoot me like a brave soldier,
For I fought for Ireland.”

“Kevin Barry, do not leave us,
On the scaffold you must die!”
Cried his broken-hearted mother
As she bade her son good-bye.
Kevin turned to her in silence
Saying, “Mother, do not weep,
For it’s all for dear old Ireland
And it’s all for freedom’s sake.”

Calmly standing to attention
While he bade his last farewell
To his broken-hearted mother
Whose grief no one can tell.
For the cause he proudly cherished
This sad parting had to be
Then to death walked softly smiling
That old Ireland might be free.

Another martyr for old Ireland,
Another murder for the crown,
Whose brutal laws to crush the Irish,
Could not keep their spirit down.
Lads like Barry are no cowards.
From the foe they will not fly.
Lads like Barry will free Ireland,
For her sake they’ll live and die.

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Fintan O’Toole, ‘Grotesque denial of Bloodshed’, in The Irish Times, 5 October 2001 [column], speaks of the exhumation and reinterment of 10 men executed by the British for murdered 1919-21; considers it stage-managed on the part of Fianna Fáil on the principle enunciated by Patrick Pearse: to hold the graves of martyrs is to claim your rights as the true inheritor of the past, and comments: ‘When the recent past that is being disinterred at the tribunals gives off a stench of corruption, the temptation to skip back into an apparently more idealistic time is obvious. When the part is so ideologically bankrupt, the temptation to wrap its nakedness in the green flag is strong. And when Sinn Féin becomes a serious electoral threat, the desire to steal back the clothes it has borrowed is almost irresistible’. O’Toole Cites Donal O’Sullivan, Kevin Barry and His Time, which reports a conversation between Kevin Barry and his sister Kathy just after he had taken the oath of allegiance to the Dáil: “That’s good, now you’re a real army”. “I don’t know. Anyway, when this damned Dáil takes Dominion Home Rule, they needn’t expect us to back them up.” Barry took part in a raid on the home of Willie Redmond, MP, at Aughavannagh, Co. Wicklow; also involved in attack on Church of Ireland rectory in Co. Carlow (“we decided not to go hear the minister that night but to take him unawares”); gives details of the attack on soldiers for which he was hanged, in which one victim, Michael Whitehead, was 17, even younger than Barry, and a bullet fired recklessly through the window of a dairy next door to the bakery where the attack took place very narrowly missing a child in a pram. O’Toole calls the reinterment ‘an act of denial, deliberately designed to sanitise the ambiguities of people like Kevin Barry whose idealistic certainty makes them reckless of other people’s lives.’ In concluding remarks, O’Toole describes the planned even as ‘grotesque’ in the wake of September 11th [NY].

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David Andrews, ‘No Shame in Mourning Kevin Barry’, The Irish Times (6 Oct. 2001), asks, ‘Should the violence of our founding fathers, the norm of their days, lead us away from celebrating our State? Of course not. Should the violence of the 10 men to be re-interred lead us away from celebrating their lives and vision? Of course not. … In Kevin Barry’s Ireland there was no peace process to justly address the needs of the parties in conflict. There was a norm of violence and the threat of violence throughout Europe and beyond. We should not feel threatened or made somehow insecure by the State mourning these 10 men/There is nothing wrong with mourning those who fought and died for Ireland.’

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Eugene Hogan, ‘O’Donoghue slams Paper’s revisionism’ (Sunday Independent, 21 Oct. 2001, referring to FF Minister of Justice John O’Donoghue’s attack on the Daily Mail who condemned the reinterments but previously expressed ‘admiration for the revolt’ (i.e., the war of independence), quoting a Daily Mail editorial for 15 Dec. 1919: ‘This mature, determined, national, disciplined, and above all, intelligent revolt’. O’Donoghue goes on to say: ‘Those who consider any act of commemoration of the founding of our modern state, those who would deny the Irish people the right to pay homage to the men and women who took action to service and protect the authority of the Dáil, have a partisan revisionist view of history . / They make a false link between the actions of soldiers of the Republic during the war of Independence and the actions of a tiny minority who today have no democratic mandate for their actions and who deal in the currency of terrorism. / These commentators would have us believe that the acts of commemoration and of homage in some way give succour and credibility to those who have usurped the legacy of the men and women of 1916 and the War of Independence.’

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Eoghan Harris, ‘Cowardly narcissism is not the real Ireland’ [column], ibid., p.17, writing on the Associated Newspaper Group’s contradictory treatment of the reinterments in the Daily Mail (against) and Ireland on Sunday (for). Speaking of an attack on the Sunday Independent by the editor of An Phoblacht, Harris writes: ‘Neither An Phoblacht nor Associated Papers seem to grasp that deep down Irish people prefer peace to tribal nationalism. [...] No matter what Irish people say in public, deep down they distrust Sinn Féin … the most popular Taosigh were peaceful patriot types like Jack Lynch and the least popular were the sneaking regarders like Haughey.’ Harris confesses ‘a grudging respect for Kevin Barry [b]ecause [he] had bottle’, referring to the alleged ‘callous composure’ [sic] of his bearing before his execution. Note, in this period An Phoblacht denounced ‘the militaristic and aggressive policy pursued by US governments” in the Middle East and Central America leading to “the deaths of thousands of innocent people”; the Irish Echo (NY) wrote that the editorial had “caused consternation among many Irish American supporters of Sinn Féin”.

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Notes
Last letter: wrote a last letter to Katherine (his sister): ‘I believe the usual thing done in my case is to make a speech form the dock or something but I couldn’t be serious long enough to do it. Besides, anyone who ever knew me would never believe I wrote it’; ‘Yes, K[athleen], as you remark, we have seen some good times but not as good as might have been.’] See Tim Carey, Hanged for Ireland: The Forgotten Ten Executed 1920-21: A Documentary History (Blackwater Press), 216pp.

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Anti-racist: Sean Cronin’s 1965 booklet on Kevin Barry quotes a secondary-school essay by Barry on the subject of “Prejudice” - a subject which he considered from three angles: racial, religious and personal, of which three he counts racial prejudice to be the worst: ‘It usually masks a much worse thing - oppression or tyranny. It is also divided into two classes, namely that of the white man against his coloured brother, for brother he is whether black, red, or yellow, and that of the white man against his fellow-white man of a different nation. The two combined form the origin of very many of the world&146;s greatest wars and slaughter.’ (Quoted by Manus O’Riordan on Facebook, 20 Sept. 2015 - with an additional link to a rendering of “Kevin Barry” by Paul Robson.)

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Erskine wrote a press letter which appeared the day after the execution, saying:
This lad Barry was doing precisely what Englishmen would be doing under the same circumstances and with the same bitter and intolerable provocation - the suppression by military force of their country’s liberty.
 To hang him for murder is an insulting outrage, and it is more: it is an abuse of power: an unworthy act of vengeance. contrasting ill with the forbearance and humanity invariably shown by the Irish Volunteers towards the prisoners captured by them when they have been successful in encounters similar to this one. These guerrilla combats with soldiers and constables - both classes do the same work with the same weapons; the work of military repression - are typical episodes in Ireland.
 Murder of individual constables, miscalled “police”, have been comparatively rare. The Government figure is 38, and it will not, to my knowledge, bear examination. I charge against the British Government 80 murders by soldiers and constables: murders of unarmed people, and for the most part wholly innocent people, including old men, women and boys.
 To hang Barry is to push to its logical extreme the hypocritical pretense that the national movement in Ireland unflinchingly supported by the great mass of the Irish people, is the squalid conspiracy of a “murder gang”.
 That is false; it is a natural uprising: a collision between two Governments, one resting on consent, the other on force. The Irish are struggling against overwhelming odds to defend their own elected institutions against extinction.
Quoted in Wikipedia > “Kevin Barry” - citing Séan Cronin, Kevin Barry [3rd Edn.] (CFN Publ.)

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