96th Sean Treacy Commemoration
Sean Treacy was born in Soloheadbeg on 14 Feb. 1895. His parents, Denis Treacy and Bridget Allis, were small farmers on fourteen Irish acres. His father died when he was three years old. His mother took him to her home in Hollyford where he later attended school. He practiced rifle shooting on his uncle‘s farm.
With poor eyesight he had to wear glasses. He returned to Soloheadbeg of eleven years of age. He was a good student at the Monastery CBS, Tipperary. He became fluent in Irish and joined Conradh na Gaeilge in 191 I.Togadh maruachtaran é ar Chraobh an Chonraidh I mBaile Thiobraid Arann. A Kerryman called Charlie Walsh came to Donaskeigh as a teacher from 1906-09, when he transferred to Donohill. Gaelgéir mor ba ea é. He was passionate about the Irish language and Irish Republicanism. Among his students were Sean Treacy, Dan Breen, Dinny Lacey, Pakie Deere and Sean Hogan. He was employed by Conradh ne Gaeilge to teach night classes in the surrounding parishes and he had a huge influence. He later became Lord Mayor of Dublin, 1949-50, and President of the INTO in 1922 and again in 1933. He was a TD from 1932 until his retirement in 1954. He was better known as Cormac Breathnach agus bhi séina Uachtaran Chonradh ne Gaeilge 1926—28. At sixteen years , Sean Treacy joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
In 1913 he formed the first Branch of the Irish Volunteers in Co. Tipperary with Eamon O Duibhir and others in Ballagh. The Gaelic League was used as a cover for Volunteer meetings, though not all members of the Gaelic League favoured any military action. He was active in the anti-recruiting drive. The crown forces had to cancel many of those meetings and got very few recruits.
He reorganised the Volunteers after the split with John Redmond and rebuilt depleted Companies along with Dan Breen, Eamon O Duibhir and others. He swore many new members into the IRB, including Dinny Lacey in 1914. He spent 1915 organising Volunteers. Tipperary was ready for the Rising on Easter Sunday 1916 but McNeill‘s countermanding order threw everything into confusion. His efforts to get the Volunteers to rise were unsuccessful. The failure to rise galled him and he resolved to be at the forefront of the next effort. He told the Volunteers that the fight might last 100 years. He was jailed from August to November 1917 and took part in the hunger strike in Mountjoy in which Thomas As he died. He was also jailed from February to June 1918. He was very active in the Kilshenane project which was detailed in the oration at the Eamon O’Duibhir commemoration in Clonoulty last June.
In October I918 the 3rd Tipperary Brigade IRA was formed in Moloney‘s chemist shop in Church Street, Tipperary. Séamus Robinson was elected Brigadier, Sean Treacy Vice brigadier, Dan Breen Quartermaster, Eamon O Duibhir assistant Quartermaster, and Con Moloney Adjutant. They decided on action and the first action planned was to steal gelignite from Co. Council employees transporting it from Tipperary town to the quarry at Soloheadbeg. Robinson moved his men into position on 16th January 1919. Conditions were awful. The weather was cold, wet, and miserable. Rations were scarce and basic. There was the ever—present danger of discovery or betrayal. They waited for five days and decided that if the gelignite didn‘t arrive on the 215‘ they would call off the ambush as they’d run out of food. The account of the ambush is well documented but I wish to note a couple of particulars.
- ) The action was decided upon locally with no reference to GHQ.
2) The primary purpose was to gain explosives, guns and ammunition.
3) Killing the RIC escort was not a priority.
4) Originally Vol. Tadgh Crowe was detailed to guard the prisoners, so the policemen were to be taken alive.
5) The Volunteers only fired after their demand to the RIC to surrender was disregarded and the police assumed firing positions.
6) The actual engagement lasted for less than ten seconds.
7) Only three of the ambushers, Robinson. Treacy, and Breen fired their weapons.
8) The fact that An Chéad Dail met that day was purely coincidental.
9) At that time the IRA were not under the jurisdiction of An Doll.
1O)This action marked the start of the military campaign of the War of Independence.
11) This was the first loss of life suffered by the RIC in an engagement with the IRA since I916.
Dail Eireann reproclaimed the Proclamation that day. At Soloheadbeg it was made an actual reality by the fighters of the Third Tipperary Brigade IRA. Without that act the Declaration by An Doll would have been mere rhetoric. Canon Arthur Ryan said prophetically of the event, ”Where Tipperary leads Ireland will follow”. The Volunteers had to go on the run.
Events followed the Soloheadbeg ambush in a steady progression. A selection of them include:
Feb. 1919, The Nodstown Declaration — all crown forces to depart Tipperary by a certain date.
May 1919,Sean Hogan rescued at Knocklong.
Dec. 1919. Ambush to assassinate Lord Lieutenant French at Ashtown in the Phoenix Park.
May 1920, Burning of Hollyford barracks.
June 1920. Drangan barracks captured along with arms and ammunition.
July 1920, Rear Cross barracks burned.
July/Aug. 1920 Organised Brigade‘s first Flying Column; Dinny Lacey Officer Commanding.
Oct. 1920. Treacy and Breen shoot their way out of “Fernside”, Drumcondra, having been surrounded by crown forces.
14th Oct. 1920 Sean Allis Treacy killed in action in Talbot Street, Dublin. Ireland‘s greatest fighter had fallen.
Monday, 18 Oct. 1920 Sean Treacy was laid to rest in Kilfeacle. The graveside oration was delivered by Comdt. Con Moloney, son of SF TD Patrick J. Moloney.
The Volunteers had ordered all schools in Tipperary to close that day in honour of Sean Treacy. All schools did so except Rosadrehid. In l9l 7 Ben O Hickey had organised a Company of Volunteers in Bansha and by 1918 Frank O Dwyer was Coy. Captain and his brothers Ned the Adjutant and jerry a Section Commander. They and the other 120 men in the Company were very active.
On the morning of l8’h Oct. 1920 frank O Dwyer had gone to Rosadrehid and ordered the children home. On that night the O Dwyer homestead was raided about midnight by a band of armed and masked men. Frank and Ned were taken outside and shot dead, bayoneted, and beaten to pulp with rifle butts in the presence of their sister Kate who tried to save them. She was the local Captain of Cumann na mBan. The younger brother Jerry escaped as his elderly parents had prevailed upon him to hide under their bed. The bedroom was searched but Kate protested that her parents were elderly and ill and so they were not disturbed. The school didn‘t close as the principal was a policeman‘s wife. All those in that murder party were later killed.
Two other families had double bereavements. The Looby family of Newpark, Dualla lost James and Laurence. The Sadlier family of Rathkenny, Drangan lost Denis and Michael. During this period the TS’ Tipp Brigade last twenty eight members, the 2nd Tipp Brigade lost seventeen, and the 3“ Tipp Brigade lost eighty three.
If the arms from the “Aud” had arrived and Tipperary had risen along with the other counties that were ready, it is likely that the rebellion would have been quenched with the same brutality as occurred in Dublin followed by the same wave of executions. It is very likely that the resources, spirit, Volunteer numbers, and will power would not have been available to re-ignite the march towards freedom in 1919.
Nationalistic endeavour in Northern Ireland was only re-ignited to any extent after the T966 commemorationswhich led to the Civil Rights movement of the late sixties. 2016 has been a year of great celebrations and I commend the 3rd Tipperary brigade Old lRA Commemoration Committee for the part they have played and the leadership they have shown. Gura fada buan sibh.
As commemorations continue over the coming years let there not be any rancour or division. Let us record and remember the deeds, let us honour the memories and pray for their souls. Do not judge anybody with 20:20 vision.
Remember there is good in the worst of us and bad in the best of us. Historians will have their say anyhow.
Who are today’s volunteers? They are the people who strive to make their own community a better place. They are found in the GAA, soccer, rugby, tennis and other sport organisations. They are found in the tidy towns groups, the cultural organisations, Comhaltas, Conradh, Historic and heritage groups. They are in the Trade Unions. They are the people who provide a voice or a platform for demonstration or protest. They all have the freedom in our democracy to do so. One such group are currently seeking the repeal of the 8th Amendment.
I commend all those who work with the vulnerable in our society and there is an onus on each of us to be volunteers for those who struggle with mental health difficulties. A listening ear may be all that is needed.
Finally I leave the last words to a comrade of Sean Treacy, Dan Breen, Dinny Lacey, and Séamus Robinson. Vol. Tim Riordan gave an oration at Dan Breen’s grave in the course of which he said the following which can be applied equally to Sean Treacy.
“Dan Breen will now dream of battlefields no more, or of days of danger, or of nights of walking. The daring fights and feats which brought him fame will live on in lrish history‘s pages. Dan and his fellow fighters risked everything with no thought of personal reward or gain. May he and his comrades rest in peace”.
Suaimhneas siorai dar n-anamnacha uile.
Go raibh maith agaibh.
Ruairi o Cinnéide, BCC.
Cathaoirleach Cheantar Bardasach Chaisil—Thiobraid Arann.