An official wreath-laying ceremony took place in Donegal on Sunday to commemorate the killing of four anti-Treaty IRA men - including south Derry man, Séan Larkin - by Free State soldiers close to Stranorlar on March 14 1923.
Led by IRA commander, Charlie Daly from County Kerry, the men were among eight anti-treaty IRA men ‘court martialled’ by the Free State after they were captured in 1922. The men were part of a large unit which had been sent to the county to fight against partition.
Daly and Larkin were executed along with Timothy O’Sullivan and Daniel Enright, both all from County Kerry.
As news of their pending executions spread, Archbishop Patrick O’Donnell of the Raphoe Diocese pleaded for clemency from then Free State Defence Minister, Richard Mulcahy, but his appeal was rejected.
The executions went ahead in woods close to Drumboe Castle, which was being used as a headquarters by Free State troops.
Following their deaths, a Free State army chaplain wrote to Daly’s parish priest in Castlemaine, paying tribute to his courage.
“He was a tower of strength to the others all of whom like him met their deaths like true heroes,” he wrote.
A spokesman for Donegal County Council said: “The events leading up to the arrest and the subsequent execution of these four men during the Civil War had a profound effect on communities in Donegal and elsewhere and has continued to live on”.
Separately, the Drumboe Martyrs Commemoration Committee, as in every year since 1924, walked to the execution Site at Drumboe Woods to remember the four men. The speaker on the 100th anniversary, was former political prisoner and republican activist John MacElhinney.
Over 200 people also attended a successful Spring School in Ballybofey on March 11.
“We were delighted to have a large contingent up to 70 members of the extended families of the Drumboe Martyrs here with us at this very special event to mark the 100th Anniversary of the execution,” said the chair of the organising committee, Maria Doherty.
The sessions heard of the “untold impact” of the civil war on women. Helen Meehan, a local historian and former president of the Donegal Historical Society, outlined the role of Cumann na mBan in Donegal during the war of independence and the civil war.
Film maker and author Hillary Dully gave an overview of the anti-treaty position, taken by Cumann na mBan, through the archive of Máire Comerford who was part of the garrison at the Four Courts when the civil war broke out.
Professor Breandan MacSuibhne of University Galway, Dr Fearghal MacBloscaidh of St Mary’s Belfast and Dr Tomás MacSuibhne focused on the politics of the civil war, the activities of the Drumboe Martyrs and the context of their execution.
Keynote speaker, Professor Brendan O’Leary of the University of Pennsylvania, gave a detailed presentation of research on public opinion on a United Ireland and the strategic implications for a future referendum on Irish Unity.
There was also a poignant and elegant reading of the last letters of the four men to their mothers before the execution and a rendition of the song ‘the Woods of Drumboe’.