This week 100 years ago, the ‘Leixlip Five’ were executed by the Free State authorities. The men had come over from the Free State Army and joined the ranks of the IRA, and all were members of the highly effective Leixlip Flying Column in County Kildare.
Terence Brady, Leo Dowling, Sylvester Heaney, Anthony O’Reilly and Laurence Sheehy were among 22 republicans captured on 1 December. Ten days later they were court martialled in Kilmainham jail and held over Christmas until their execution on 8 January.
A leaflet distributed at the time praised the heroism of the republican prisoners. The following is the text of the leaflet which was distributed widely and was printed in Glasgow by Kirkwood & Co.
To the Memory of
FIVE BRAVE IRISHMEN
Who Died for Ireland.
LEO DOWLING. LAURENCE SHEEHY.
SYLVESTER HEANEY. ANTHONY O’REILLY.
(Executed in Kilmainham Jail on January 8th, 1923.)
They told you that the Army you were joining was the Army of the Irish Republic. They put the false title up on placards for you. They told you that in order to establish the Republic it was necessary to utilise the Treaty, so that you could be armed and equipped for the purpose of establishing the Independence of Ireland. By false pretences they led you along, telling you they were framing a Republican Constitution, and that they would have no Governor-General, and that they would never take the oath of allegiance. Lyingly they whispered in your ear that when the time came they would stand up against England and say they would not have these things.
That was how they beguiled you and many boys like you into their army.
And then you saw them attack, not England, but your former comrades of the Irish Republican Army. You saw them bring in their King-pitted English Constitution while they abolished the Republican Courts and all the Republican institutions. You saw your Commander-in-Chief stand at the salute for the representatives of the English King in Ireland. You saw them raiding, night after night, the homes of those revered ones, the Men of 1916. You saw them bring into the army men who had never fought for any cause but England’s while they murdered, officially and unofficially, the men who were fighting without pay for the cause of Ireland. You saw the Rory O’Connors and the Liam Mellowes, names historical in the fight for Irish Independence, facing the firing squads, while the Tony Lawlers and the William English Murphys, who never fought for any cause but that of England, were in the counsels of your Higher Command. You saw that you were ranged in arms on the side of Empire, against the ancient and undefeated cause of Ireland.
Then your eyes were opened. You saw that by treachery and falsehood, you had been betrayed; and like honourable men you returned to your old allegiance, to fight for the only cause worthy of your manhood–the Independence of your country.
For this they executed you. For this you died.