THE execution of Dick Barrett from Ballineen in 1922 was ‘manifestly illegal’ according to Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Speaking at the recent National Civil War conference at UCC, Mr Martin highlighted several of the atrocities committed during the period including the execution of prisoners – Dick Barrett, Rory O’Connor, Liam Mellow and Joe McKelvey – who were executed without charge or trial on the orders of the Free State Government.
Dick Barrett was on the leading officers of the IRA in Munster during the War of Independence and had opposed the treaty. He and three others were later executed by the Free State as reprisal for the death of TD Sean Hales, despite having no hand themselves in the shooting.
‘It was manifestly illegal and it damaged the standing and authority of the new State. They had each been in custody for over five months and in the case of Dick Barrett, he was executed without trial or court martial as a reprisal for an IRA policy which he was known to have opposed,’ said the Taoiseach.
‘We need to find a way of talking about our state’s formation while admitting the radicalising and destructive impact of such actions. But it is also essential to acknowledge the full picture. For example, the murder of Deputy Seán Hales was manifestly wrong and promoted no positive cause – something which Dick Barrett, his old acquaintance from Cork understood.’
Having recently sought a State apology for the killing of Dick Barrett at the hands of the first government, members of the Commemoration Committee said they were pleased to hear the Taoiseach concede that his death and that of his comrade were ‘manifestly illegal.’
Meanwhile, plans are in place for this year’s Dick Barrett Centenary Commemoration where an extensive programme of events will take place to mark the centenary of his death.