Joseph Sweeney recalls his involvement in the Easter Rising. He fought in the GPO and Moore Street and talks about how he was nearly killed while trying to find food.
Joseph Sweeney came from a very Republican family. Originally from Donegal, his father, who had been involved in the Land War and was a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians sent his son to be educated in St Enda's School, Rathfarnham, run by Patrick Pearse.
He joined the local Volunteer company in Donegal in 1914 but the following year transferred to 'E' Company, 4th Battalion, Dublin Brigade, 'Pearse's Own' and served with many of his school friends. Although in his first year at university, Sweeney lived in St Enda's. At the end of 1915 he was sworn into the IRB by his former headmaster Patrick Pearse.
On Easter Monday Sweeney was detailed to gather supplies. When he finally got to Liberty Hall he found the Headquarters Section had left to occupy the GPO. Word was sent to Sweeney that he was to stay at Liberty Hall, 'put the place in a state of defence and prepare a line of retreat out of it'.
Soon after Sweeney got orders to go to the GPO where for most of the week he was posted the roof of the building with the majority of his comrades from 'E' Company. They remained there until the evacuation of the building on Friday 28 April.
Remembering what happened when they reached the safety of the houses in Moore Street Sweeney says,
We began the usual way to bore a hole on this level and the next house we came to we bored a hole on the next level.
After a while Sweeney went to see if he could find some food. This proved to be more dangerous than when he was in the GPO, as during his excursion he was nearly shot twice by British snipers. One incident he recalls,
I was reaching for the bottled pears when the whole window came in on top of me. Somebody had spotted me from the top of the street.
The Volunteers knew that as long as they remained in Moore Street the British would continue to isolate their position. It was decided to make a break for it. George Plunkett, brother of Joseph Plunkett, would lead a small party of men out in a bid to let the main body escape.
The idea was we'd go out into O'Rahilly Parade, dart round the corner and try and rush the barricade at the top.
However Pearse and the other leaders realised that those chosen would not survive the charge and cancelled the order.
Joseph Sweeney was interned in Frongoch Internment Camp, Wales after the Rising. He rejoined the Volunteers on his release and during the War of Independence was O/C West Donegal Brigade, IRA. He was also a member of Dáil Éireann, having been elected in the 1918 General Election. In 1921 he was appointed O/C, 1st Northern Division, IRA. Joseph Sweeney fought on the pro-Treaty side during the Irish Civil War and remained in the army until his retirement in 1940. He later became Secretary of the Red Cross in Ireland.
Joseph Sweeney died in 1980. He was ninety-three years old.
Joseph Sweeney was interviewed for the television series 'Ireland A Television History' in 1979.