A commemoration is to be held this August bank holiday weekend for the centenary of leading Irish revolutionary figure, Harry Boland, who was fatally injured in Skerries on July 30 1922.
A Centenary Conference will be held on Saturday July 30 at The Old School, Skerries, which will feature talks on Boland’s life, as well as other stories from the Irish revolutionary and Civil War period.
Sunday 31 July 2022 at Faugh’s GAA Club will celebrate Boland’s involvement with the GAA, including a day of GAA sport followed by music.
On Monday August 1 2022, a graveside oration, followed by a recording of the History Ireland Hedge School project will take place at Glasnevin Cemetery.
Gerard Shannon, historian and Chairperson of the Harry Boland conference in Skerries, speaks of one of Ireland’s central revolutionary figures: “Harry Boland was one of the most important figures of what we call the Irish Revolution, he was a key operative within the revolutionary movement.
"He fought in 1916, he was attached to the GPO garrison and he was very important to the rebuilding of the movement in the aftermath; he was very important particularly to the rebuilding of Sinn Féin as a political movement.
“Him and Michael Collins reorganised the volunteers and Sinn Féin and of course saw the success of that in the general election in December 1918 where Sinn Féin won 73 seats.”
Boland was seen very much as the public face of Sinn Féin and the Dáil. However, it was when the treaty was signed in December 2021 that a fracture appeared in his and Collins’ relationship, Boland taking an anti-treaty stance.
There was also a love rivalry, with both men vying for the affections of one Kitty Kiernan, whom Boland was reputedly going to ask to marry, with her choosing Collins instead.
Gerard says: “Harry was very important, he tried to bring both sides of the Civil War together. There was an election in 1922 just before the Civil War so Sinn Féin had a pact election where they had pro and anti-treaty candidates under a coalition for the electorate, and Harry said that was his proudest achievement getting both sides to agree to that."
When the fighting began, Boland became quartermaster for the anti-treaty IRA. An attempt by Free-State soldiers to arrest Boland in the Grand Central Hotel in Skerries ended up in him being shot, after which time he later died in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin. Reportedly, even on his death bed, Boland refused to give the name of his attacker.
Speaking on why Boland was such a significant figure, Gerard says: “He was such a significant figure because he was a very capable and brilliant political organiser, he really committed himself to the cause, pretty much from 1916 onwards, and he kind of had a cover in that he worked as a tailor, but he was a very full-time operator for the revolutionary movement, particularly in the rebuilding of Sinn Féin and the volunteers after 1916.
“He was very closely associated with all the major figures, like DeValera, Collins, Cathal Brugha, Richard Mulcahy and so on, he would have been very well known to them but he also would have been a very well-known public figure as well. He was elected TD in December 1918 for Roscommon South was the constituency he represented. But as well as that he was on tour in the United States with DeValera, and that attracted international coverage, because of the War of Independence going on at the time.
“So Harry would have been seen as the public face of that, he would have spoken to the media, he would have spoken at public engagements with DeValera, sometimes on his own he spoke. So by the time the treaty is singed in December 1921 and he is against it in the the Dáil, he’s very much a public figure, like his death in August 1922 would have been given widespread coverage because he would have been fairly well-known particularly since 1916/1917 he would have been known as the public face of Sinn Féin and very well-known to the authorities and to the public as well.
“I think for that reason, because he was such a significant figure and his contribution to our independence was so enormous, it’s important to acknowledge that.”
On the July 30 conference on Harry Boland in Skerries, Gerard says: “We’re getting the Dublin Brigade volunteers group, which is made up of veterans of the defence forces, they have an exhibition of items, guns from the period and photographs and so on.
“So it’s shaping up to be a solid programme, but I think an appropriate one for a figure such as Harry, to give him recognition 100 years to the day of his death.”
A fitting tribute to a revolutionary who died in Skerries 100 years ago.