On Sunday 18th October, the Spirit of Irish Freedom Society Westmeath held commemorations for two IRA Volunteers buried in St. Fechin’s Graveyard in Fore, Co. Westmeath.
Paddy Dermody, from Hilltown, Castlepollard, was killed on 30th September 1942 at Lismacanigan, Mount Nugent, Co. Cavan, while Michael Flynn, from Glenidan, Collinstown, Co. Westmeath, died while a prisoner in Mountjoy Gaol, on the 25th October 1920.
The Westmeath Society, in the run up to the Centenary of the 1916 Rising, intend commemorating all men and women from the county of Westmeath who gave their lives defending the All-Ireland Republic, proclaimed on Easter Week 1916 and ratified by the First Dáil on 21st January 1919.
Over thirty people assembled at the Fore Abbey car park and marched through the village, led by a flag-bearer carrying the Irish Tricolour. The ceremony itself was chaired by Gerry Farrell, a member of the South Westmeath Sloane/Tormey Cumann.
First, he introduced Martha McCabe, who gave a short history of the local North Westmeath anti-eviction group, the Fagan/McCormack Cumann, that is called after two men from the Fore area who were activists at the time of the Land War disputes of the 1880’s. Proceedings then began with the reading of the 1916 Proclamation by Laura Kelly, Mullingar. There then was a rendition on the tin whistle of the ‘Foggy Dew’ by James Connolly, Castletowngeoghegan.
A full history of the circumstances surrounding the death of Volunteer Paddy Dermody was given by Peter Rogers of the Dermody/Leavy Cumann (edited version below).
Volunteer Paddy Dermody was born just up the road from the village of Fore in Hilltown, Castlepollard in 1920. By 1942 the reorganisation of the IRA had been completed, with a new Army Council elected following the Stephen Hayes debacle. Paddy Dermody was now the new O/C of the IRA’s Eastern Command and would play an important role in that year’s planned armed insurrection.
Throughout 1942, while planning the ‘Northern Campaign’, IRA leaders in the Six Counties worked closely with Paddy Dermody and Thomas Farrell, O/C of the Western Command, to gather weapons and munitions which could be sent to Flying Columns in the Occupied Six Counties. The launch of the Northern Campaign was brought forward to coincide with the execution of Volunteer Tom Williams. On 1st September the Army Council issued orders to all O/Cs to take aggressive action if Tom Williams was executed.
Tom Williams, the acting O/C of Northern Command, was to be hanged by the British for his alleged part in a gun battle which resulted in the death of an RUC Constable. On the 2nd September Paddy Dermody led an operation to attack the British Army barracks in Crossmaglen, Co. Armagh. The plan was to capture a British Army Officer and hang him in reprisal for the execution of Tom Williams. However, the attack was thwarted by a passing RUC patrol, who noticed the IRA convoy and opened fire on them. As the element of surprise had now been lost the attack on Crossmaglen Barracks was called off and they withdrew.
Shortly afterwards Paddy Dermody went on the run and on the 30th September 1942 he decided to attend the wedding reception of his sister in a house in Lismacanigan, Mount Nugent, Co. Cavan. Dermody made his way accompanied by another IRA Volunteer, Harry White who was also on the run at the time. The house reception was in full swing when an armed Free State raiding party burst in, acting on information from two other Detectives who had observed proceedings and seen the two IRA men enter the house.
A gun battle ensued and it was described as being reminiscent of an encounter between the IRA and Black and Tans during the 1920s. In the shootout a Special Branch Detective named Walsh was mistakenly shot by his own men. He died later in hospital. In the same burst of gunfire Paddy Dermody was shot in the back and killed instantly, as he and Harry White were trying to escape through another window of the house. Harry White shot his way out of the house and although being wounded made good his escape. He was found two days later lying in a ditch by a man who got him safely out of the area.
The Wreath-Laying ceremony then followed, with local man Bernard Flood laying the first wreath on Dermody’s grave on behalf of the Dermody/Leavy Cumann, North Westmeath. Peter McCormack then laid a wreath on behalf of the Sloane/Tormey Cumann, South Westmeath. Everyone then moved across the graveyard to the grave of Volunteer Michael Flynn and another republican, Commandant Tom Maguire, IRA, also from Glenidan, who died in 1976. A full history of the circumstances surrounding the death of Volunteer Michael Flynn was given by Peter Rogers (edited version below).
Volunteer Michael Flynn was a native of Glenidon, Collinstown, Co. Westmeath. He died while a prisoner in Mountjoy Gaol on the 25th October 1920, from illness caused by exposure and malnutrition. He was 34 years old. Michael Flynn joined the Irish Volunteers in 1919 and was a distinguished member of the Glenidon Company.
One major operation that Michael Flynn took part in happened in mid October of 1920 and led to his arrest and ultimately to his death. This was the kidnapping of the Resident Magistrate for the Castlepollard area. Following a meeting held in Fore, attended by senior Volunteers from the area, the plan was agreed. The kidnapping took place in mid October 1920 on the main road the Castlepollard side of the Crookedwood. The IRA held the two prisoners for three days and then released them unharmed.
In the days following their release a wholesale round-up of Volunteers took place in the area, with 14 men arrested on the 19th October, among them Volunteer Michael Flynn. Flynn and the others were brought to the old Workhouse in Delvin, which was being used as a British military camp at the time. He was transferred from there to Mountjoy Gaol on Wednesday 20th October 1920.
Michael Flynn received harsh treatment from his captors and was deprived of food from the time of his arrest until his death on the 25th October. At a secret British Army Military Inquiry into the death of Michael Flynn, the doctor that attended Volunteer Flynn in Mountjoy gave evidence that ‘the causes for his death were from exposure and the want of food’ that caused the deceased’s first illness, which in turn led on to his death.
The ceremony came to a close with chairperson for the day, Gerry Farrell thanking everyone for attending. It concluded with the playing of Amhrán na bhFiann by Maggie-Rose Connolly, Castletowngeoghegan.