January 21 marks the anniversary of the Soloheadbeg raid:
first action of Ireland’s War of Independence.
Volunteers Dan Breen, Sean Treacy, & Seamus Robinson of Tipperary took a momentous decision to sieze the day, which proved a good judgement call. Their timely blow opened an historic guerilla campaign, which ultimately led to the withdrawal of British forces from most of Ireland, after 700 years of military occupation.
In his entralling autobiography, My Fight For Irish Feeedom, Dan Breen explains how it came about. His unit set the pattern for how the flying columns would take the lead: assessing the situation in their own regions, and planning tactical operations independently, according to local knowledge, and their own strengths.
Breen also recounts the ordeal he and his comrades in arms suffered in the wake of their daring action. For months they dodged an intensive manhunt, with next to no official support from the political leadership of the independence movement.
When the first support came at last, it came directly from Michael Collins
“The Volunteers were in great danger of becoming merely a political adjunct to the Sinn Fein organization. Treacy remarked to me that we had had enough of being pushed around and getting our men imprisoned while we remained inactive. It was high time that we did a bit of the pushing. We considered that this business of getting in and out of jail was leading us nowhere. At the moment we had nothing definite in mind, but we proposed to engage in some enterprise that would get the ball rolling in Tipperary. We had previously discussed the feasibility of attacking the RIC escort which accompanied consignments of explosives on their way to Soloheadbeg quarry. The Volunteers were in need of high explosives for grenades and demolition work. Apart from that, Treacy believed that the forcible taking of the gelignite from a police escort would have a salutary effect on the morale of the Volunteers. In this mood the Soloheadbeg ambush was planned … ”
My Fight For Irish Freedom
by Dan Breen
The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?
by S M Sigerson
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