In the early hours of Saturday 19th of December, members of the 1916 Societies entered the Curragh military camp under the cover of darkness to commemorate seven Irish Republican Army Volunteers who were executed 92 years ago on that day.
The Curragh Camp in County Kildare was for decades the chief British military base in Ireland. It was handed over to the Free State army in May 1922 and was used to imprison republicans who remained loyal to the Sovereign Republic, declared on Easter Week 1916.
Those present made their way to a fence surrounding the Glasshouse military prison, where the Volunteers were executed by firing squad by Free State counter-revolutionaries. At the closest possible position to the Glasshouse, a wreath, a copy of the Proclamation and an Irish Republic Flag were placed on the fence. The Proclamation and the names of the executed Volunteers were read out followed by a minute’s silence.
The executed Volunteers had been captured by Free State troops in a hidden dugout on December 13th 1922 with Commandant Thomas Behan. The Volunteers surrendered but a Free State soldier struck one of them, Thomas Behan of Rathangan, with a rifle butt and broke his arm. The republicans were ordered to board a truck but when Behan was unable to do so, because of his broken arm, he was attacked viciously, his skull smashed in with rifle butts - a war crime subsequently covered up with the tried and tested excuse, ‘shot while trying to escape’.
The seven surviving republicans were taken to the Glasshouse, the military prison in the Curragh. Under powers given to them by the Free State government, military tribunals could impose the death sentence for possession of arms. The Volunteers executed on that day were:
Officer Commanding Bryan Moore, Rathbride, Kildare - age 37
Volunteer Patrick Bagnall, Kildare - age 19
Volunteer Patrick Mangan, Kildare - age 22
Volunteer Joseph Johnston, Kildare - age 18
Volunteer Patrick Nolan, Kildare - age 34
Volunteer Stephen White, Kildare - age 18
Volunteer James O’Connor, Tipperary - age 24