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In the Four Courts

James Durney

In the early hours of Good Friday, 14 April 1922, anti-Treaty members of the IRA occupied the Four Courts in Dublin. Liam Duffy, a native of Monasterevin, was part of the garrison. During the War of Independence, Duffy had been an officer in G Company, 6th Battalion, Carlow Brigade. Others in the company at the time included Captain Paddy Martin, a former Kildare inter-county footballer, Lieutenant Kit Treacy and Lieutenant Peter Dunne, Monasterevin. In 1920-1 Duffy was imprisoned by the British authorities in Mountjoy Jail and Perth Prison, in Glasgow. Liam was born in 1900 to Thomas Duffy (34), a gardener, and his wife, Mary (26), a domestic servant, who lived at No. 3, Monasterevin Bog, Monasterevin. In the 1911 census Liam had three brothers – John Joe, Thomas and Michael – and one sister, Maria.

According to a new book ‘The Fall of Dublin’ by Liz Gillis the Four Courts garrison consisted of six sections comprising198 officers and men. A personal friend of Liam Mellows, Liam Duffy was attached to the headquarters section, which included the Four Courts Executive of Mellows, Rory O’Connor, Joe McKelvey, Ernie O’Malley, Tom Derrig, Peadar O’Donnell, Dick Barrett, Paddy O’Brien, Joe Griffin, Simon Donnelly, Seán Lemass and Seán MacBride. The republicans used whatever was at hand to fortify the building, including barbed wire and sandbags. Many windows were barricaded with heavy legal law tomes, law books and weighty ledgers. The headquarters section was positioned in the central hall under the dome. They were involved in digging a tunnel to Patterson’s factory in Church Street. However, this tunnel was never finished and became water-logged.

At 4.29 a.m. on 28 June 1922, Dublin awoke to the boom of two field guns as the National Army began its bombardment of the republican garrison in the Four Courts. The two guns, borrowed from the British, were positioned in Winetavern Street and Lower Bridge Street and barely scratched the stone of the huge building. As well as artillery fire, the National Army used Lewis guns, Hotchkiss guns and Thompson sub-machine guns to batter the building. The republicans had machine guns and rifles on the roof of the courts, but they were no match for the National Army’s arsenal. The garrison held out until 4 p.m. on Friday 30 June when they surrendered to the pro-Treaty forces. The republicans suffered relatively few casualties in the battle for the Four Courts: three volunteers were killed and eight wounded. The National Army forces, however, suffered at least seven killed and upwards of seventy wounded. Most of the National Army wounded occurred when mines laid by the republicans exploded – the cause of the explosions has never being verified – which destroyed the central hall and priceless historical records dating back hundreds of years. 

The surrendered garrison were marched off to captivity in Jameson’s Distillery. From there they were taken to jails around the city. Most of the Executive were taken to Mountjoy Jail. Liam Duffy joined his friend Liam Mellows in Mountjoy, where he would remain until at least the following year. Liam Mellows was executed in Mountjoy Jail in December 1922. No doubt Liam Duffy heard the shots which ended his friends’ life. In April 1924 Liam Duffy was still in custody. He was held in Hare Park Camp, the Curragh where he would remain until he was finally freed with the last groups of hard-line republicans later that year. After the Civil War Liam Duffy worked with the Post Office and was later attached to Athy P.O. He also worked as a Social Welfare and Excise Officer. A life-long gaelic speaker Liam was a member of the county branch, Gaelic League, and became actively involved in Athy in promoting the Irish language. Liam Duffy died in 1979, aged eighty, at his home in Enniscorthy. One of his closest friends, Jack McKenna, Athy and Castledermot, on learning of his death said: “Liam was a true Irishman and a lifelong friend. Kildare and Ireland had every reason to be proud of him.”

Liam Duffy, a native of Monasterevin, was a member of the Four Courts garrison during the Civil War in 1922

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