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Shootings, sex assaults and shearing - how Civil War women suffered


The roles of Michael Collins (pictured) and Eamon de Valera were well known, but the suffering of women was more hidden

The roles of Michael Collins (pictured) and Eamon de Valera were well known, but the suffering of women was more hidden

The roles of Michael Collins (pictured) and Eamon de Valera were well known, but the suffering of women was more hidden

New research has highlighted women were killed with guns, bombs and were victims of sexual assault during the Irish Civil War.

The information has been compiled from the newly released records of compensation claims from the time.

Dr Gemma Clark, from the University of Exeter in the UK, said: "Revolutionary Ireland was not a safe place for many Irishwomen, however there is little evidence sexual violence was widespread.

"The records suggest violence against women was not used in a systematic way to realise political or military objectives. But it's important to remember that people then, as now, may be reluctant to report sexual assault.

"The highly damaging legacies of the Civil War ought not to be forgotten, and these papers give information about the violence and intimidation suffered by people which otherwise would have gone unrecorded."

Mary Barry wrote in records that she and three other girls came under fire at Dillons Cross in Co Cork in December 1922.

Ms Barry wrote she and the girls had been "singing a song in support of the Treaty when a shot rang out and I fell".

She attributed the attack to "civilians believed to be anti-treaty or supporters of anti-treaty forces".

A "party of Irregulars" carried out a night-time raid at Patrick Callanan's home in Dromelehy, Co Clare, in December 1922, shooting his daughter Mai, in the foot.

It's not clear if the shooter, William Campbell, meant to injure her foot but records show Mai was suspected of informing the government troops at Kilrush of "the whereabouts of Campbell and other Irregulars".

Serious attacks also took place in the home, where women also suffered violence.

Some had opened the door to violent groups, searching for the men of the house.

Bridget Barry from Co Cork hid under a kitchen table when "machine gun fire and bullets came through [the] back door".

She had given water to "rebels" and the National Troops opened fire on her home.

Dr Clark's investigations of possible cases of sexual assault were made difficult by omissions and obscure language in the sources.

Women were more forthcoming in compensation claims, by contrast, about forced hair-shearing.

This was used as a punishment for women who were associated with British or Free State forces.

Anne White, a housekeeper for a Catholic priest in Co Cork, was assaulted when the house was raided in April 1923.


Her sister Mary, also a servant, and the priest, "remonstrated" with the raiders but they were threatened with revolvers - and Mary was "badly dragged about and assaulted", which, according to the compensation claim, resulted in lasting physical and mental damage rendering her unable to work or care for elderly parents.

Anne was forced into a motorcar by the raiders and taken away to an unoccupied house five or six miles away, where she was kept and her hair cut off.

The research, published in the journal Irish Historical Studies, shows women suffered aggression and intimidation.

There are 2,107 applications for support in the records, 19pc of which were submitted by, or on behalf of, women.