Taoiseach unveils Celtic Cross in memory of Dick Barrett

Dick Barrett
Dick Barrett


The Southern Star, December 13th 1952

December 13th, 1952 – An Tanaiste, Mr Sean Lemass, unveiled a Celtic Cross on Sunday last over the grave in Ahiohill cemetery of Dick Barrett who was executed in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, on December 8th, 1922. One of the leaders of the West Cork Brigade IRA during the struggle for independence, Dick Barrett was a native of Hollyhill, Ballineen.

The cross had been erected by old comrades of the West Cork Brigade, the First Southern Division, IRA, and of the Four Courts, Dublin, garrison in 1922.

A decade of the Rosary was recited in Irish by Alderman Sean McCarthy, TD, MCC. Following the sounding of The Last Post and Reveille by Mr John O’Brien, three volleys were fired over the grave by a party of Old IRA in charge of Mr Paddy O’Brien, Girlough.

Included in the large attendance were many old comrades, wearing their medals of the pre-truce era.

Requiem Mass

The unveiling ceremony took place following the celebration of Requiem Mass in the adjoining church.

Mr Liam Deasy who presided in introducing Mr Lemass said they were glad to have with them the acting head of their government. They could appreciate the sacrifice he had made when they realised that he left Dublin that morning. Apart from the fact that he was acting head of the government, they were glad that he was with them because Barrett and he were both members of the same Four Courts garrison who defended the Republican position in 1922.

Mr Lemass said that the Cross marked the final resting place of an Irish soldier who had given his life in the cause of Irish freedom, and it had been erected by his old comrades of the West Cork Brigade and the First Southern Division helped by officers and men of the garrison of the Fourt Courts 1922.

In every garrison, Ireland had produced soldiers and patriots who heard the call of duty and answered it unhesitantly and unselfishly. The generation of Dick Barrett produced them in abundance.

Those who emerged from the ranks of the Volunteers to command brigades and divisions and to staff its general headquarters in the grim days of the fight for freedom must have been of a remarkable character. Dick Barrett was such a man. Because of his special qualities, his high intellectual capabilities and his capacity for leadership, he would have made his mark in Irish history.

Organisation work

Early on he had shown great intellectual capabilities and capacity for leadership. He had adopted the profession of teacher, in which capacity he had taught at Ballinamult, Co Tipperary, and later at Upton and Gurranes, Co Cork and meantime had excelled at natinal games.

Answering the call of 1916, he undertook the organisation of the Volunteers in his native county, and his exceptional energy, enthusiasm and capacity for leadership soon marked him out from among his associates.

In July 1920, when the fight was beginning to get tough and when Commdt Charlie Hurley took over the brigade command, Dick Barrett became its first Quartermaster. He participated in engagements in West Cork at places which were now known throughout Ireland. Late in 1921 he was captured and interned at Spike Island, but on November 15th of that year he led six of his companions in a sensational escape. He was then appointed to the staff of the First Southern Division. Then came the Treaty.

‘This’ said Mr Lemass ‘is not the time or place to discuss the rights or wrongs of that debate, or to use words which might revive any of the bitterness of that period. But Dick Barrett was one of those who saw in the Treaty the blasting of all thier hopes for Ireland and the defeat of all for which they had striven. He believed his duty lay in endeavouring to retrieve the position and retore the Republican cause as it had been previously.’

Proceeding, Mr Lemass said that Dick Barrett was appointed Assistant Quartermaster General of the IRA and with other members of the Army Headquarters, was in occupation of the Four Courts when the guns opened up and the Civil War started.

He was subsequently captured with the Four Courts garrison and interned in Mountjoy. Then, as the Civil War proceeded, the Free State Government of the day took a terrible decision to shoot as a reprisal for attacks on their members, prisoners who had been in their custody for months and who as they were in custody, were no longer able to control events and certainly had no personal resonsibility for them.

On the morning of December 8th, 1922, Dick Barrett, Joe McKelvey, Liam Mellows and Rory O’Connor were told they were to die, not because anybody had tried them and found them guilty of any crime, but to die as a reprisal. Those four men marched out to their deaths, representing as they did, Belfast, Dublin, Galway and Cork. They symbolised in a way which might not have been intended the eternal unity of the nation and emphasised that the demand for freedom knew no border.

Extracts from letters

Having read extracts Dick Barrett wrote to his parents an hour before his execution, Mr Lemass said that the Cross just unveiled would in the years ahead be more than a memento to Dick Barrett, it would become a place of pilgrimage for the young men of Cork, and if ever again Ireland in defence of its freedom should need to call upon Cork patriotism and valour, she would not call in vain.

Relatives present were Messrs James and William Barrett (brothers), Mrs Michael Collins and Mrs J Galvin (sisters), Mrs W Barrett (sister-in-law), Mrs Downey, Mrs Kingston, Nellie, Rita, Moira, Teresa and Nuala Barrett (nieces) and Dick, Kevin, Cornelius and Jim Barrett (nephews).

Amongst the general attendnace were Messrs Ted O’Sullivan TD, MCC, Sean Buckley, TD, MCC, General Tom Barry, Tom Crofts, F Busteed, F Begley, M Murphy Town Clerk Clonakilty, W Desmond, M Finn MCC, E Cotter, MCC and D Keohane.

Messrs J McHenry and J O’Reilly, Dublin, representing officers of the Four Courts garrison, laid a wreath on the grave.

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