Dublin Folklore Project honours IRA Volunteers
The Dublin North Inner City Folklore Project last Saturday (18 November) unveiled a plaque in memory of Dublin Brigade IRA Commandant Dick McKee and Vice Commandant Peadar Clancy.
The plaque was unveiled at 36 Lower Gloucester Street, now Seán Mac Dermott Street, at the house at which McKee and Clancy were arrested by Black and Tans on Saturday, 20 November 1920. Seán Fitzpatrick, whose father of the same name was an IRA Intelligence Officer, carried out the unveiling. Now in his 80s, Fitzpatrick remembers his father being arrested with McKee and Clancy when he was just five years old.
The arrests took place as part of the backdrop to the IRA's famous execution of 14 British Military Intelligence agents, known as the `Cairo Gang' on Sunday, 21 November 1920. The previous day, McKee met with Michael Collins at Vaughan's Hotel in Parnell Square to plan the assassinations. Arrested later that day, he and Clancy, along with Volunteer Conor Clune, were tortured and executed by the Auxiliaries on Sunday after the IRA successfully eliminated the British agents.
McKee was born at Phibsborough Road in Dublin on 4 April 1893. He became an apprentice in the publishing business at Gill & Son, Upper O'Connell Street, and then a compositor. Clancy came from a rural background - Carrowreagh East, Cranny West Clare, where he was born in 1888 - to a family prided in Fenian tradition. His business was the drapery trade, which brought him from Clare to Limerick, Cork and eventually Dublin. In the capital city he bacame a partner in a drapery business called `The Republican Outfitters', located in Talbot Street. The struggle for Irish independence, its catharsis in 1916 and their positions in the IRA brought these two men together.
McKee had joined the Volunteers in 1913, serving in G Company, Second Battalion of the Dublin Brigade. He served in the 1916 Rising in Jacob's Factory, under the command of Thomas MacDonagh. Clancy served in the Four Courts Garrison. McKee was later incarcerated by the Crown forces in Knutsford Jail and Frongach Internment Camp. Clancy's initial sentence was death, but this was commuted to 10 years penal servitude and he was released during the amnesty of 1917, a year after McKee's early release in August 1916.
Both Volunteers were highly regarded by this time and were promoted within the IRA shortly after their releases. McKee became Company Captain and then Commandant of the Second Battalion, eventually being placed as Brigadier of the Army's Dublin Brigade. He was also active as an ex-officio member of IRA General Head Quarter's Staff, that included Collins, Mulcahy and Russell. He ranked as Director of Training for this duration, though he was jailed again as a political prisoner in Dundalk Jail, in 1918. McKee had many escapes and close shaves during the War of Independence, and in the final chapter of his revolutionary activism, he was on full-time active service, moving covertly through a network of safe houses.
Clancy also remained active following his release. He was selected as the Sinn Féin candidate for the famous East Clare by-election - but his candidature had not been ratified by IRA General Head Quarters. This led to a second electoral convention in Ennis, where he was relaced by Eamonn de Valera. Clancy commanded the succesful raid on the King's Inns in Dublin, capturing several weapons and a large quantity of ammunition. He became Vice Brigadier in the Dublin Brigade and was, like his direct superior Dick McKee, attached to GHQ as Director of Munitions.
Both men were betrayed to the Crown forces by an ex-British Army soldier, who was described by acquaintances as a ``drunken bowsie'', ``ne'er do well'' and a ``tout''. They were captured at Seán Fitzpatrick's, imprisoned in Dublin Castle and tortured under interrogation, along with visiting Volunteer, Conor Clune from Clare.
McKee and Clancy's Tricolour-adorned coffins lay side by side in the Pro Cathederal in Marlborough Street, 80 years ago this week, following lives of remarkable revolutionary struggle. Aged 27 and 32 years, respectively, they were laid to rest at the Republican Plot in Glasnevin.
Next week, An Phoblacht interviews Dublin historian Terry Fagan about the North Inner City Folklore Project and its role in unearthing the historical and cultural accounts that lie hidden beneath the surface of Dublin, past and present