"Where may new-married women sit

And suckle children now? Armed

Men may murder them in passing by

Nor law nor parliament take heed.

Then close your eyes with dust and lie

Among the other cheated dead."

An extract from the WB Yeats poem 'Reprisals'.

November 1920 and Ireland is a dangerous place. It is the second year of the War of Independence, ambushes and killings are commonplace and the country is gripped with terror. The Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries arrived early that spring having been sent by the British government in response to increased IRA attacks against the Royal Irish Constabulary police force. And they are quickly earning their reputation for ruthlessness in dealing with rebels and civilians alike. Their campaign even reaches as far as the rolling countryside of South Galway. In an event that shocked the nation and shook a close-knit community to the core, the impact of their actions meant that the lives of one young family would never be the same again.

On All Saints’ Day, November 1, 1920, 24-year-old Eileen Quinn was pregnant and standing outside her home near Gort, Co. Galway with her three children. She was anxiously waiting for her husband to return from the fair in Gort. Anxious, because of increased violent activity from forces stationed in the area. As she waits, a military truck passes and shots are fired directly at Eileen. In the eight hours it takes her to bleed to death, a young family’s life is destroyed and the cover-up has already begun.

Now, one hundred years later, Eileen’s grand-niece Orla Higgins, pieces together the events of that fateful day and explores the impact this catastrophic event had on future generations of the family. We hear about Eileen’s shooting from vivid newspaper accounts of the time as well as reports from the Military Tribunal that was held to investigate her death. We also hear first-hand personal reminiscences from her relatives, those best placed to commemorate her memory, as they reveal new stories and untold memories about the short life and tragic death of Eileen Quinn. 

Contributors include Gerard Quinn, Brendan McGowan, Kathleen Ronan, Rena McAllen, Judy Murphy and Eileen Quinn. 

Readings in the documentary were by Nick Dunning, Ian McGlynn, Ronan Kelly, Brian Lally, and Donal O'Herlihy.

Special thanks to the Black Gate Cultural Centre, Connacht Tribune, Galway City Museum, Kiltartan Gregory Museum and the library at NUI Galway.

Since first broadcast, Reprisals - The Eileen Quinn Story has won a Finalist Certificate at the 2020 New York Festivals Radio Awards.

Narrated by Orla Higgins
Produced by Orla Higgins & Sarah Blake

First broadcast RTÉ Radio 1, Saturday 24th August, 2019 @ 1pm
Repeated RTÉ Radio 1 Sunday 25th August, 2019 @ 7pm

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries