The Drumboe Martyrs
The Drumboe Martyrs

In March 1923, six weeks before the end of the civil war, the execution of republican prisoners by the Free State regime reached its height.

By the autumn of 1922 all republican resistance in Dublin was crushed and the fighting spread to the provinces. In the North-West an IRA active service unit led by Charlie Daly, O/C 2nd Northern Division, carried on a guerrilla war against the Free State forces.

Daly, a native of Knockanescoulter, Firies, County Kerry, joined the Irish Volunteers in 1914. As adjutant of Firies Battalion, IRA, he took part in many successful attacks on RIC barracks in County Kerry in the early months of the Tan War.

In September 1920 he was sent by Cathal Brugha, Minister for Defence, to organise the IRA in Counties Derry and Tyrone and worked closely with Sean Larkin of County Derry, whom he appointed Brigade Adjutant during the following months. Arrested in January 1921, he was interned at Collinstown Camp, County Dublin, until the Truce in July.

In anticipation of the renewal of hostilities, Daly, following his release, used the six-month-long truce for intensive training of IRA Volunteers in his area. The IRA was re-organised into divisions and he was apponited O/C 2nd Northern Division, covering Derry and Tyrone.


Daly and Larkin were among the first to reject the Treaty in December 1921. While on a brief visit to Kerry at Christmas 1921, Daly appealed for Volunteers to assist the beleaguered nationalist population in the North. Among those who answered his call were Tim O’Sullivan of Aughatubrid and Dan Enright from Listowel - two experienced Volunteers who had been in action against the Black and Tans.

During the early months of 1922 IRA units under his command concentrated their forces along the Donegal border and launched attacks against the crown forces in the Six Counties.

Following the outbreak of the Civil War in June 1922, Daly tried to halt the spread of the conflict, but when Free State attacks on republican garrisons intensified, he and his comrades, including Larkin, O’Sullivan and Enright, had no option but to defend the republic in arms.

Gathering together the remnants of his division which still believed in the republic, Daly and his vice-commandant, Frank Carney, crossed the border into Donegal to oppose Free State troops marching on Sligo. The small force of republicans in Donegal held out for only a brief period before being compelled to withdraw to the mountains.

On 2 November 1922, during a general swoop by Free State troops, Daly and members of his column, including Larkin, O’Sullivan and Enright, were captured in the shadow of Errigal mountain. Imprisoned in Drumboe Castle, they were court-martialled and sentenced to death the following January.

In mid-March 1923 the four Volunteers were marched from their cells in Drumboe Castle to an improvised firing range about 300 yards up a gently sloping field in the woods at Drumboe and shot by a Free State firing squad.

The Drumboe Martyrs were executed on 14 March, 1923.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News