Anniversary of morning when TD taken from Grand Hotel

By Hubert Murphy Editor MANY residents walking down a Skerries street are unaware that Irish freedom fighter and former TD, Harry Boland, was gunned down on that very spot, 81-years-ago tomorrow (Thursday) and he died just 24 hours later in a Dublin hospital.

But mystery still surrounds his death. Was the Irish freedom fighter and officer at the GPO during the 1916 Easter Rising, the victim of a local ‘informer’ that faithful morning?

That haunting question still remains unanswered all these years later, and as yet another anniversary of his tragic shooting passes, the truth remains as distant as ever.

Many rumours have circulated around Skerries down the years in relation to Boland’s actions on the day of July 31, 1922. He was staying in the Grand Hotel, then situated overlooking the monument in Skerries. He was surprised by a raid from soldiers dispatched from nearby Balbriggan.

He reportedly fought with one of the Free State soldiers, trying to seize a gun, it went off and Boland was badly wounded. He died later from his injuries in a city hospital.

The conspiracy stories have lingered on in the decades since his death. He had two great allies in Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera, both of whom he trusted without question. until the Treaty split. Although Boland and Collins were said to be rivals for the hand of Longford woman Kitty Kiernan, as depicted in the film ‘Michael Collins’, they were once great friends.

But the events surrounding his shooting in Skerries remain unsolved. Did Collins fear he knew too much about his contacts in Britain with whom Boland worked with to free de Valera from Lincoln jail or did Boland have secrets to tell about Collins’ private life, information that could have ruined him in future years?

One of Valera's prominent anti-Treaty supporters, Boland had checked in to the Grand Hotel exactly 81-years-ago this evening (July 30).

Although out of the limelight for some time before his death, Boland's presence in Skerries did attract attention and on the foot of information received, a party of National Troops, it would appear, set out from Balbriggan in the early hours of the following morning, went to the Grand Hoel and proceeded to arrest Mr.Boland who struggled and in attempting to possess himself with one of his captors' guns and was shot in the struggle.

One of the troops stated at the time that ‘Mr.Boland was wanted and we went to the hotel and two or three of us entered his room. He was in bed. We wakened him and he got up out of bed and partly dressed himself. He had no gun. Suddenly he turned and rushed to tackle one of our fellows for his gun. A shot was fired over his head to desist but he continued to struggle and almost had the gun when a second shot was fired and Mr.Boland was wounded.’

The bullet entered his right side about the ribs, passed through his body and came out through his left side causing very serious injuries. Medical and spiritual aid were called for and the T.D. was brought to a Dublin hospital.

Mr.Boland was wounded and removed to hospital. A man giving his name as John J.Murphy with residence in Ranelagh, who was found with Mr.Boland, was taken prisoner. Subsequently he was identified as Joseph Griffin, an active irregular, belonging to Dublin.

Apart from Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera, Harry Boland was probably the most influential organiser in the Irish republican movement between 1916 and 1922. He was convicted and imprisoned after serving as a Volunteer officer in the GPO.

Later he was president of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and travelled to America.

He broke with Collins over the terms of the Anglo-Irish treaty of December 1921 but was the principal intermediary between the treaty's supporters and opponents, before being shot in Skerries.