Two women whose fathers died in events leading to the founding of the Irish Free State describe the impact on their lives.
Máire Brugha and Caitlín Larkin both lost their fathers in events that led to the founding of the Irish state. The confusion which followed the death of their fathers had profound effect on their mothers and how Máire and Caitlín were raised.
In 1920, when Máire Brugha was two years old, her father Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, died following 74 days on hunger strike. Máire had an extremely unstable upbringing and her mother Muriel would frequently move her from place to place without warning. Eventually Muriel sent Máire to boarding school in Germany. But in 1932 when she was 13 years old, her aunt Mary MacSwiney brought her back to Cork. Her aunt was awarded custody of Máire and from this point on, mother and daughter were estranged.
Caitlín Larkin’s father John O’Connor was a Volunteer and gunrunner for the IRA. In March 1923 he decided to give up fighting and planned to go to America for work, bringing his family over at a later date.
However fate intervened and he was one of nine Irregulars massacred by Free State troops in a revenge attack in Ballyseedy in County Kerry in 1923.
Caitlín’s mother Eileen went to Tralee to bury her husband but was arrested and imprisoned along with four members of Cumann na mBan. Eileen had no option but to make Caitlín a ward of court. Her care was handed over to the Irish White Cross and aged seven, Caitlín was sent to boarding school in Tipperary. She lost her father to the Civil War, but life took her mother from her as well.
This episode of ‘Léargas’ was first broadcast on 27 January 1998. The reporter is Pat Butler. It includes footage from the RTÉ drama-documentary 'Ballyseedy' about the Civil War in Kerry in 1923. Written and produced by Pat Butler, it was first broadcast on 12 November 1997.