Some previously unrecognised 1920-1922 IRA fatalities in Belfast (by Kieran Glennon)

Here’s an interesting post from Kieran Glennon (author of From Pogrom to Civil War) on the recent pension files released by the Military Archives. Kieran looks at some previously unrecognised IRA fatalities during the 1920-1922 period and some other points of interest in the files. The newly identified IRA fatalities are John McCartney (killed 25th July 1920) and Henry Mulholland (killed on 10th July 1921) in Bombay Street, he was originally from Tyrone and taken back there to be buried). As with some earlier casualties, both were older men, McCartney (36) and Mulholland (49), which has been noted with some other early fatalities. There is clear gap now between the scale of republican fatalities in Belfast in 1920-1922 and official records, such as those named on the County Antrim memorial in Milltown and various republican publications.

[The parallels between the July and August 1920 violence in the Kashmir Road and Cupar Street and events in August 1969 are uncanny including deployment of heavy machine guns and armoured cars against civilians – at one point a field gun was brought to Divis Street].

Further information also seems to be emerging of the Belfast IRA getting actively involved in the civil war in the key period up to August 1922 (providing the backdrop to the suppression of Facts and Figures of the Belfast Pogrom) and later.

Here’s Kieran’s post:

The recently released files are of interest for a couple of reasons. We’ve previously discussed a Belfast Roll of Honour here and there are a couple of potential new additions referred to in the latest files. In Davy Matthews’ interview with the Pensions Board, he mentioned “6 were killed at street corner including Giles and McCartney, vols. at time of Cashmere [sic – Kashmir] Road fighting.” Giles is mentioned in “Northern Divisions”, but John McCartney, killed on 25th July 1920, is a new name to emerge. Probably owing to the date of his death, he wasn’t included on the Nominal Rolls (you can view the Nominal Rolls and individual pension files at http://www.militaryarchives.ie)..
Similarly, in Rory Graham’s statement to the Board, when asked “Were any men of your company, time of dealing with the mob, shot by the mob?” he replied “Mulholland, who was sitting playing cards.” On 10th July 1921, a Henry Mulholland was killed in Bombay St. He’s included on the Nominal Roll for B Company, 1st Battalion, but listed as “present address unknown” which is an odd way to refer to a deceased comrade. It is also debateable whether he was actually on active service at the time of his death.
By my tally, including these two would bring the tally of Volunteers killed in Belfast during the pogrom to twenty-three, plus Seán McCartney killed at Lappinduff and Seán O’Carroll killed in Louth. Then in addition to those, you’d have the seven Fianna that were killed.
More importantly, the latest files consolidate a thread that had begun to emerge in earlier MSPC releases regarding the anti-Treaty, or Executive Forces, within the Belfast IRA after the 1922 split. In particular, they add new detail to their participation in the Civil War fighting in the south.
The previous MSPC release included the file of Pat Thornbury, who became O/C of the Executive 3rd Northern Division after Joe McKelvey’s election to the Army Executive. Thornbury talked of bringing thirty Belfast IRA men down to Dublin to join in the fighting around O’Connell St at the outbreak of the Civil War. Similarly, Joseph Billings from Belfast talked of being a Barracks Quartermaster for the anti-Treaty garrison at Barry’s Hotel.
The latest release contains the files of Michael Carolan and his brothers Andrew and Alphonsus. Michael was appointed Adjutant of the Executive 3rd Northern Division after the split, was shot and wounded in Grafton St in Dublin in early July, then made Director of Intelligence for the IRA in the autumn. His two brothers carried despatches for him in Dublin though they don’t appear to have been involved in the actual fighting.
Although his pension claim was unsuccessful, the file on Patrick McWilliams contains two references from former superior officers which indicate that a second column of Belfast men set off for Dublin at the start of July 1922 but could get no further than Dundalk. They remained in Louth and took part in attacks on Free State forces there.
Another member of the Belfast column operating in Louth was Charles McCaull Stewart. A Presbyterian, at the outset of the pogrom he had been an apprentice welder in Harland & Wolff but he joined the IRA in Ardoyne in the spring of 1921. After a brief return to Belfast in July 1922, he made his way to Roscommon where he joined up with the anti-Treaty East Mayo flying column in August. Interestingly, in his statement to the Pension Board, he says “We reported in Ballaghadereen” rather than “I reported”, so there may also have been other Belfast men involved in that unit.
On the other side of the Treaty divide, Daniel McAllister from Cushendall in Antrim had come south to the Curragh for training in late June 1922 along with the remnants of the pro-GHQ 2nd and 3rd Northern Divisions, but he says that he and six others left in mid-August as a refusal to take up arms against republicans in the Civil War.
Given that only 154 members of the Belfast Brigade can be identified as having joined the Free State Army, while the entire membership of over 400 men still active in Belfast on 1st July 1922 are listed as being Executive Forces, and some of those turned up in three different counties during the Civil War fighting, the latest files to be released certainly raise some interesting questions about the direction of the Brigade after the Treaty split.