Remembering Kevin Barry

On the morning of November 1st. 1920, a young man called Kevin Barry sat in his cell in Mountjoy prison awaiting to be taken for execution. Kevin was just 18 years old but despite his age,  he would become one of the most influential martyrs for Irish Republicanism.

Growing up in in the early 1900’s Kevin Barry’s life was heavily influenced by the everyday surroundings of a war torn Dublin after being sent to live there in 1915. Over the coming year, the 1916 Easter Rising would take place which would only solidify the views that Kevin had held. It was around this time he expressed interest in joining Fianna Èireann must to the disbelief of his family.

When Kevin was enrolled in college his work submitted would often focus on the efforts of those before him and the events that took place. During this time Kevin was also a great support of the Gaelic games and was known for his keen hurling ability. Kevin was also smart and would go on to earn a place studying medicine at University College Dublin

During the time that Kevin  Barry was  enrolled in his studies he would enlist as an Irish volunteer becoming a full member in October 1917. Kevin Barry was a dedicated solider and was attached to two different companies, one for when he was in Dublin studying and one for when he would be on holiday back to his home of Carlow.

In September 1920 Kevin Barry was picked as part of a Dublin brigade that was ambush a British Army lorry that was collects supplies from a  local bakery. It was noticed by a Dublin volunteer that this bakery would supply the soldiers twice a week, giving them the  perfect opportunity to plan an ambush on the soldiers and raid their weapons.

Just off the back of a run of similar successful raids the company approached the lorry however were rumbled and ended up in a gunfight with the soldiers where three were killed marking the first British deaths in Ireland since the 1916 Rising.

Kevin’s comrades fled as he went to hide under a nearby truck where the British soldiers eventually had been alerted to and arrested Kevin.

After his arrested Kevin Barry was tortured because he refused to give in the names of his comrades, infamously he was asked to turn informer, Kevin Barry said no. Because he was of such a young age, the public became widely concerned after a released statement described his treatment.

“He tried to persuade me to give the names, and I persisted in refusing. He then sent the sergeant out of the room for a bayonet. When it was brought in the sergeant was ordered by the same officer to point the bayonet at my stomach … The sergeant then said that he would run the bayonet into me if I did not tell … The same officer then said to me that if I persisted in my attitude he would turn me out to the men in the barrack square, and he supposed I knew what that meant with the men in their present temper. I said nothing. He ordered the sergeants to put me face down on the floor and twist my arm … When I lay on the floor, one of the sergeants knelt on my back, the other two placed one foot each on my back and left shoulder, and the man who knelt on me twisted my right arm, holding it by the wrist with one hand, while he held my hair with the other to pull back my head. The arm was twisted from the elbow joint. This continued, to the best of my judgment, for five minutes. It was very painful … I still persisted in refusing to answer these questions… A civilian came in and repeated the questions, with the same result. He informed me that if I gave all the information I knew I could get off.”

At the time other Irish political leaders were also trying their best in efforts to get Kevin released however at trail Kevin Barry was sentenced to death. Kevin pleaded that he would be shot by firing squad like a solider rather than be hung however the courts refused.

In the lead up to his death it was reported that Kevin was in good spirits and refused to be down about the fate that lay before him.

After hearing two masses on the morning of November 1st Kevin Barry was led away to be hanged.

His death caused outrage across Ireland that a young man was executed in the manner he was, which would play a massive propaganda victory for Irish Republicans just years on after the Rising executions.

Kevin Barry would go on to become one of the most influential Irish republicans due to his strong will and determination for freedom.

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