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Women and war: The brutal, hidden truths of the revolution era

Ireland's revolutionary history is usually told by and about men, but new research highlights violent attacks on women in the era of the Civil War. Catherine Healy reports

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Sexual policing: a scene from The Wind that Shakes the Barley showing a woman having her hair forcibly cut - a common form of punishment for women during the War of Independence

Sexual policing: a scene from The Wind that Shakes the Barley showing a woman having her hair forcibly cut - a common form of punishment for women during the War of Independence

Research: Linda Connolly, professor of sociology at Maynooth University

Research: Linda Connolly, professor of sociology at Maynooth University

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Sexual policing: a scene from The Wind that Shakes the Barley showing a woman having her hair forcibly cut - a common form of punishment for women during the War of Independence

Margaret Doherty was only 32 when she died at Castlebar Mental Hospital in 1928. It had been five years since the night she was gang-raped at the close of the Civil War in May 1923. Not long after the ceasefire, at around 2am, National Army forces were said to have burst into her family home and dragged her from bed, stripping her naked outside the house. Maggie, as she was known, was at the time a carer for her mother, Catherine, as well as an intelligence officer with Cumann na mBan.

In a military pension application following her death, Catherine stated that the attack left her daughter "totally incapacitated". She "gradually failed, physically and mentally", according to her mother.

Maggie's ordeal is one of a number highlighted by new research into sexual violence during the Irish revolutionary period. Linda Connolly, professor of sociology at Maynooth University, who has examined the case, says this type of wartime violence is only now being acknowledged by Irish historians.


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