The toughest leader
At the outbreak of the Civil War, much was expected by
republicians of the IRA in Tipperary and in the main
they were not disappointed. Unlike many other areas
around Ireland, which retired into its safe areas after
an initial burst of activity, the IRA here had the
capabilities to bring the war to the enemy.
Despite the area's command structure being riven with
personality clashes and a lack of communication, the
IRA in County Tipperary were party to some of the most
spectacular republician successes of the Civil War.
The volunteers of the Third Tipperary Brigade, Second
Southern Division, under Commandant General Dinny Lacey
were amongst the most active and, along with other
Brigades, were involved in capture of the Free State
held city of Waterford on 19 July 1922 as well as other
towns in Counties Tipperary, Kilkenny and Waterford.
Dinny Lacey of Attybrack, County Tipperary, became a
major thorn in the side of the Free Staters as he had
been in Britian's side during the Tan War. He had been
a Volunteer organiser in 1916, and a Gaelic League
member, and he supervised munitions manufacturing prior
to the Tan War. He gained a reputation as a fearless
fighter and was involved in many of the ambushes and
other military operations in Third Brigade area in
Following a successful offensive by Free Staters in
August 1922, South Tipperary republicans regrouped with
Lacey ordering the adoption of guerrilla tactics and
the establishment of flying columns. Until then the
fighting was characterised by open warfare on a larger
scale - unlike much of the fighting during the Tan War
- often involving several hundred Volunteers.
Many of the columns operated out of the area
surrounding the Knockmealdown, Galtee and Comeragh
mountain ranges from where they launched numerous
ambushes. In December republicans recaptured
Carrick-on-Suir, Callan, Thomastown, Mullinavat and
several other towns in the area, once more gaining the
area the reputation of being ``a little republic of its
There was no effective move against republicians until
Paddy O Connor took charge of the Free Staters in the
South Tipperary area. Another Free State colonel in the
area was a former colleague of Lacey's during the Tan
War, Tommy Ryan.
Up to 1,000 Staters were drafted into the area from the
garrisons in Cashel, Limerick, Cahir, Tipperary and
Clonmel to try to make it a death trap for republicans.
It was around this time, according to Dan Breen, that
an approach was made to Dinny Lacey by the neutral IRA
Association to discuss a truce. It was for this
discussion that Lacey and his column moved into
Ballydavid in the Glen of Aherlow, on the night of 17
Billeting in various houses in the locality, the
Volunteers came under attack the next morning. Lacey
had been staying in Roddy Ryan's Ashgrove house along
with Captain Bill Allen and Commandant Paddy McDonagh.
Under heavy fire Lacey and the others made a dash from
the house to escape the ever closing net. Paddy Mc
Donagh was seriously injured in the ensuing gun battle
and Dinny was mortally wounded.
Dinny Lacey's death would have a serious demoralising
effect within the IRA and a Free State report that
``Lacey was the toughest leader which could be found in
any part of Ireland'' demonstrates the calibre of the
leader the IRA lost that day.
At the age of 33 Dinny Lacey died this week 75 years
ago. His comrade Commandant Paddy McDonagh died the
following day in Tipperary hospital.