The Limerick curfew murders

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In the early hours of 7th March 1921, 100 years ago this week, the Mayor of Limerick, IRA officer George Clancy, former Mayor, Michael O’Callaghan of Sinn Féin and IRA volunteer Joseph O’Donoghue were all shot dead in their homes at night after curfew by the RIC. All three were involved in the freedom struggle.

The previous month, the former Mayor Michael O’Callaghan’s (pictured, left) house on the North Strand, St. Margaret’s Villa, was violently raided by drunken RIC who warned his wife she would soon ‘know more about murder’. As a precaution he occasionally stayed away from home and slept in the Royal George Hotel and a number of other residences.

However, nothing could have prepared him for the savage events which took place after midnight on Monday 7th March 1921. He had gone to bed with his wife when they were awakened by the sound of men seeking admission to the house. Kate O’Callaghan opened the front door and two men, wearing goggles, with the collars of their coats turned up and hats pulled down over their eyes, forced their way into the home and shot O’Callaghan dead at the foot of the stairs in front of his wife.

About 30 minutes later, similarly disguised RIC called to the home of George Clancy (pictured, right) , O’Callaghan’s successor as Mayor of Limerick. Having forced their way into the house they shot him dead in similar circumstances. Mrs Clancy, attempting to shield her husband from danger, was shot through the arm.

Kate O’Callaghan shared her experience that awful night.

“I opened the door wide, and when I saw the two then with goggles, and hats pulled down, and coat collars up about their ears, my heart leaped in my breast. I knew it was murder. Both men said together, waving their revolvers at Michael:’ “You come out here. Come out”.

“My mind worked like madness. I thought of the dark garden, of the river, of all the horrors, and stretching out both my arms to cover Michael and pushing him back behind me, I shouted: ‘No. No. My God! not that.’

“I heard Michael say, ‘No, No,’ just twice, as the men advanced after us in the hall. I caught at their hands as they tried to get me out of the way; there was a struggle for a second, and the man on my right hand, the man with the clear glasses and the blue eyes, freed his right arm and fired over my shoulder. I turned to see Michael stagger from the hall table, against which I had pushed him and fall on to the mat at the foot of the stairs.

“In my agony, I relaxed my hold of the man, and that same devil slipped past me and emptied his revolver into my dear husband’s body as he lay on the ground. I was struggling with the other man, the man whose voice brought me downstairs but as the man who had shot Michael was passing us to go out, I flew at him. I had the strength of a maniac. We three fought together in the hall, while I screamed all the time. I knocked them twice as our feet slipped on the polished floor; my shoes fell off; I tore at their faces and heads instinctively; they never said a word, but beat me with their hands on the head, shoulders and arms. We fell against the umbrella stand, and at last with an effort, they threw me off, and I fell heavily on my hip on the floor.

“I shall never forget the agony I suffered as I lay there screaming and helpless while I watched them running down the grass in the shaft of light from the hall door. I crawled back to my husband and fell across his body, with all my being I cried out to God to spare him to me, I had never seen anybody die, from the first shot there was no hope. His eyes were closed and he gave just a little sigh”.

The three republican martyrs were buried together in the republican plot in mount St Lawrence Cemetery, Limerick.

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