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Star founder’s son shot dead for ‘being too good at decoding’

December 29th, 2020 7:05 AM

By Southern Star Team

The front page of the Cork County Eagle had a detailed account of the shooting.

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This week 100 years ago a young Kinsale man was shot dead in Dublin city centre. He was the son of the co-founder of The Southern Star, writes his relative, Eamonn Carney

ON Christmas Day 1920 almost half the front page of the Cork County Eagle was taken up with the story of the death of Philip O’Sullivan of Kinsale.

He was the son of Flor O’Sullivan, co-founder of The Southern Star (a Kinsale solicitor and historian).

Philip was born on  August 6th 1899. On 8th June 1918, aged 18, he joined the RNVR. He served in the Mediterranean during WWI, was awarded a military cross and commended by the King of Italy. In July 2019 Lieutenant Philip O’Sullivan was demobilised; came home to work in his father’s legal practice in Kinsale and qualified as a solicitor onNovember  7th 1919.

The War of Independence was on-going throughout 1920. Philip’s maternal grandfather and uncles were district inspectors in the RIC. On 24th July 1920 then 22-year-old Philip joined the Royal Irish Constabulary, becoming a district inspector, Cork County Force, RIC on October 1st  1920.

Shortly after 6pm on Friday December 17th 1920, Philip met his fiancée, Alice Moore, near McDowell’s Jewellers on Henry Street.

Alice had just taken Philip’s hand when a man beside them pulled a revolver from his coat and fired a shot. Philip fell to the ground, hit by a bullet to his head. A second shot was fired, leaving him mortally wounded in Alice’s arms.

Years after the War of Independence ended, according to testimony given by one of the gunmen, Philip O’Sullivan was targeted as he was too good at decoding.

Philip lived through WWI, lived through the Spanish flu pandemic and then, Christmas Week 1920, on the best-known shopping street in Dublin, he lay dying in Alice’s arms.Philip was my paternal grandmother’s first cousin. My maternal grandfather and his brother were interned in Frongoch in 1916 and fought for Irish Independence. A century later what can we learn from our past?

Flor and John O’Sullivan founded The Southern Star, which had nationalist connections. They lived through conflict and grief and looked toward the future. Whatever our politics, The Southern Star is, of itself, a testament to a voice of resilience; a voice of determination and hope from the past, which we can learn from today.

2020 has been difficult. Yet we continue to be a resilient people, we inherit that trait from the generations before us. We have had a tough year – but just imagine the grief of Christmas week a century ago, and let us be grateful for our blessings and positive about our future. Together we will get through this pandemic; and in whatever way is most appropriate, let us celebrate Christmas 2020.

• Eamonn Carney is the great-grandson of John O’Sullivan (co-founder of The Southern Star. He practised as a solicitor in Bantry in the late 1990s and now runs his own practice in Dublin.

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