KILDARE AUTHOR RECALLS TROUBLED ERA OF THE FIRST DAIL

by mariocorrigan on August 25, 2007

Leinster Leader 17 May 2007 
 
KILDARE AUTHOR RECALLS TROUBLED ERA OF THE FIRST DAIL
by
LIAM KENNY
 
 
The 2007 General Election campaign now reaching a crescendo in the Kildare constituencies brings colour and interest to the daily conversations of life. The merits, style and personalities of the candidates are discussed whenever politically-minded Lilywhites meet. Kildare folk of an older generation may recall by-gone elections and none more memorable than the General Election of fifty years ago when four candidates stood for the county Kildare constituency in the General Election of 1957.
 
One of the 1957 candidates was Tom Harris of Caragh, Naas, a 1916 veteran and household name in Kildare politics having represented the county in the Dail since 1931. The Harris family is deeply rooted in Co. Kildare, although no longer involved in politics. However a member of the family, Annie Ryan, daughter of Tom Harris, is making her own influential contribution to our understanding of modern Ireland.
 
Two years ago Annie Ryan became one of the first historians to access the statements of the IRA and Cumann na mBan members who had participated in the War of Independence period from 1916-21. These statements had been compiled, in a far-sighted move by the Government in the late 1940s and 1950s, at a time when many of those active in the War of Independence were still hale and hearty. A team of officials operating under the Government’s Bureau of Military History interviewed the veterans and were rewarded with detailed and lucid personal memoirs of those troubled times.
 
The statements were locked in the basement of government buildings while a succession of Governments baulked at releasing such material while memories of the Troubles were still controversial.   Eventually, fifty years after they were compiled, the statements were opened to researchers in 2002. Annie Ryan — who grew up in Caragh and went to school in Naas but has lived in Dublin for many years — was among the first to access the newly released archives. After two years of meticulous study she compiled a  a brilliantly contextualised study of the 1916 Rising and published  ‘Witnesses – Inside the Easter Rising’ which gained  acclaim for the compelling and accurate manner in which it recounted the story of the Rising from the first-hand witness of its participants.
 
Now Annie Ryan has spent the last year researching a sequel, again drawing extensively from the original memoirs and has just published her second book ‘Comrades – Inside the War of Independence’. It is a great read – authoritative yet accessible and an ideal approach for readers keen to understand the human dimension to the troubled period of the War of Independence and all the personality – driven nuances of those formative years in the story of modern Ireland.
 
 
Given the author’s Lilywhite origins there is particular mention of Kildare personalities from that time. Among the witness statements featured are those of:her father Tom Harris, then an IRA officer and Kildare County Councillor; Pat Colgan, IRA Commandant in Kildare who shared a hut with Michael Collins in the Frongoch interment camp; James Dunne, lieutenant of the Kill IRA company in October 1920; Domhnall O’Buachalla described as the ‘extraordinarily brave shopkeeper from Maynooth’; and Patrick O’Carroll, IRA officer, Naas resident and, later, KCC employee. There is even reference to a former Leinster Leader editor, Michael O’Kelly, who was president of Sinn Fein in Co. Kildare. Men of the cloth feature in the witness records too including the legendary Fr. P.J.Doyle, Parish Priest of Naas who was a confidant of Kevin O’Higgins, one of the most talented TDs in the first Dail Eireann of 1919.
 
It is highly appropriate that the first-hand recollections of personalities behind the formation of the first independent Irish parliament, the first Dail (1919), should be published by a daughter of a Kildare TD who served from the 6th to the 15th Dails (1931-57), as now in May 2007 we go to the polls to elect the members of the 30th Dail Eireann.
 
Comrades – War of Independence by Annie Ryan, published by the Liberties Press, 2007. Series No.16.
 
 


Troubled times in Ireland recalled in Annie Ryan’s new book, ‘Comrades.’ Liam Kenny comments on the Kildare personalities in his column ‘Nothing New Under the Sun’ which appeared in the Leinster Leader of 17 May 2007. Our thanks to Liam.

Previous post:

Next post: