by jdurney on April 11, 2013

Ballykinlar Internment Camp 1920-21

James Durney

In the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, 21 November 1920, the British authorities arrested hundreds of republicans and opened several internment camps throughout Ireland. The first internment camp was at Ballykinlar, in Co. Down, while the volume of arrests was so great that additional camps had to be established at Gormanstown, Co. Dublin, Bere Island and Spike Island, Co. Cork, and at the Curragh, in Co. Kildare. Opened in December 1920 Ballykinlar Camp was situated on the Co. Down coast at the mouth of Dundrum Bay, about three miles from Dundrum village between Downpatrick and Newcastle. Over the following year 2,000 men were interned at Ballykinlar. Around twenty-six men from Co. Kildare were held at Ballykinlar and a new book by Liam Ó Duibhir, Prisoners of War. Ballykinlar Internment Camp 1920-21, contains the names and, most, addresses of the Kildare internees.
Ballykinlar Camp had a reputation for brutality: three prisoners were shot dead, while five died from maltreatment, including Séan O’Sullivan, a native of Tipperary, and a member of Kill Company, IRA. The IRA Officer Commanding Ballykinlar was Maynooth man, and 1916 veteran, Patrick Colgan. He arrived in Ballykinlar in mid-December 1920 and set about organizing the camp along prisoner-of-war lines and was appointed camp commandant. The camp was divided into two compounds and John Fitzgerald, Newbridge, was elected line captain for B Company in the camp. (John Fitzgerald, OC Newbridge Company, IRA, had been elected to Newbridge Town Commission and Kildare Co. Council in 1920.) Some twenty-five Kildare prisoners had been held at Hare Park Camp, the Curragh, until 8 January 1921 when they were brought to Dublin and then transported to Belfast on board a British warship. In Belfast Lough the prisoners were greeted by loyalist mobs and pelted with ‘Belfast confetti’ – iron rivets from the shipyards.
The names and addresses which appear in Prisoners of War. Ballykinlar Internment Camp 1920-21 are as follows:

Ballykinlar No. 1 Compound:
Michael Corry, Naas
Frank Doran, Rathangan
John Fitzgerald, Newbridge
Joe Havlon, Monasterevan
Séan Kavanagh, Mill Street, Maynooth

Ballykinlar No. 2 Compound:
Patrick Colgan, Maynooth
Patrick Devern
Thomas Devern
Patrick Domican, Kill, Straffan
Thomas Domican, Kill, Straffan
Thomas Dunne, Eyre Street, Newbridge
Michael Fay, Celbridge
Pat Fullam, Riverside, Newbridge
Michael Kelly, Williamstown, Carbury
John B. Maher, 23 Leinster Street, Athy
Joseph A. May, Woodstock South, Athy
William (Liam) McGrath, Kilgowan
Joseph Merrick
Joseph Milroy
Richard Murphy, Athy
John O’Sullivan
Thomas Patterson, 11 South Main Street, Naas
Joseph Reidy
Peter Shanahan
Thomas Trainor
James Whyte, 18.1 South Main Street, Naas

Three days later after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, on 9 December 1921, all republican prisoners were released from Ballykinlar. Three special trains brought the men to Dublin, from where the internees made their own way to their home counties. The trains were attacked by loyalist mobs with gunfire, bricks and stones at several locations. The Leinster Leader, 17 December 1921, reported on the release of the Ballykinlar and Curragh Camp internees, remarking that the reception in Athy was ‘a very warmhearted one’. On his return from Ballykinlar John ‘Babty’ Maher was paraded shoulder-high through the streets by an enthusiastic crowd of supporters to his home in Leinster Street. Crowds awaited John Fitzgerald and Tom Dunne at Newbridge railway station, but were disappointed when they did not turn up.
Patrick Colgan, along with Maurice Donegan (Cork), made a daring escape from Ballykinlar in October 1921. The two walked out the main gate dressed in British army uniforms. They got as far as Drogheda where they were arrested at a military/police checkpoint. Patrick Colgan’s witness statement, given to the Bureau of Military History, in 1953, is available to view online at or in hardcopy at Kildare Library and Arts Services, Newbridge Library. Colgan joined the National Army following his release and held various posts until he retired with the rank of major in 1944. Patrick Colgan died, in Kerry, in September 1960, aged sixty-nine.

Around twenty-six men from Co. Kildare were held at Ballykinlar and a new book by Liam Ó Duibhir, Prisoners of War. Ballykinlar Internment Camp 1920-21, contains their names

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