Dark days of spring 1923 remembered at unveiling
A point in a triangle of tragedy, linking Castleisland, Knocknagoshel and Ballyseedy to the dark days of the spring of 1923, was commemorated in Knocknagoshel on Sunday afternoon.
The site of the terrible deed in Baranarig is a little more than a stone's throw from where the monument now stands by Talbot's Bridge in the townland of Ballyduff. There, an inscribed memorial stone was unveiled to the memory of five National Army or Free State soldiers who lost their lives after being lured to the site of a land-mine in March 1923.
As might be expected, given the political nature of the event, the Fine Gael party faithful came out in force for the unveiling - at which the attendance was estimated close to 200.
Even so, in the course of a magnanimous unveiling speech, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, also mentioned the men on the anti-treaty side who were killed in Ballyseedy a day later and at Countess Bridge in Killarney and in Cahirsiveen - all in reprisal for the event which was being commemorated on Sunday.
Then an emotional Mr. Deenihan, departing from his scripted delivery, pointed out that Paudie Fuller - a nephew of Stephen Fuller who was the sole survivor of the Ballyseedy massacre - was in attendance. It was a gesture which Mr. Deenihan said he greatly admired and appreciated.
The emotion of the day and Mr. Deenihan's gesture also, clearly got the better of Mr. Fuller. The former Fianna Fail member of Kerry County Council stood at the back of the crowd. There he was flanked by former Fine Gael councillors, Michael O'Connor-Scarteen from Kenmare and current FG councillor Pat McCarthy from Ballymacelligott - whose families had also been scarred by 'The Troubles' of those tragic times.
"Paudie Fuller has done more than any other man in North Kerry to bring us all together and his bravery and generosity in being here today is something we all appreciate," said Mr. Deenihan to an outburst of spontaneous, warm applause.
In his speech Minister Deenihan thanked Ben Brosnan, Knocknagoshel and Jimmy Thompson from Scartaglin and Kilkennyman Larry Cummins for their initiative in arranging the tribute and memorial to the five members of the National Army who were killed by a trap mine at Baranarig in March 6,1923.
Those who died were Private Laurence O'Connor, Lissycurrig, Causeway; Captain Edward Joseph Stapleton, Dublin; Captain Michael Dunne, Dublin; Lieutenant Patrick O'Connor, Castleisland; and, Private Michael Galvin, Killarney. Another man, Private Joseph O'Brien lost his limbs.
"We are gathered to unveil this memorial to the five men who gave their lives for their country and paid the ultimate sacrifice," said Minister Deenihan. "However, in paying tribute to those who died here, we should also remember the nine men who were killed at Ballyseedy 24 hours later, at Countess Bridge Killarney and in Cahirciveen, in reprisal for what happened here at Baranarig."