Century-old mystery of executed 'informer'

Search for remains of man killed by IRA during War of Independence

Simon Brouder

A garda search for the remains of a man thought to have been executed by the IRA during the war of independence has yielded no results.

Early on Tuesday morning, members of the Garda Technical Bureau's Crime Scene Investigation unit, assisted by local Gardaí, mounted a search operation in a small field at Boolteens near Castlemaine.

The excavation was aimed at locating the remains of a north Kerry man - suspected of being a British informer - who was killed by a local IRA unit during the War of Independence.

According to local folklore, the dead man - who is believed to have been a wandering salesman, named Brennan, from north Kerry - was shot near Boolteens cross and later buried in a shallow grave in a field a short distance up the road. Gardaí said that they recently received "detailed information" on the location of the man's remains.

It is understood the tip came from a close acquaintance of one of the long-deceased IRA men that was involved in the killing. Inspector Donal Ashe from Tralee Garda Station said that the information provided about the events and the location of the shallow grave was "very detailed".

The excavation and search operation - involving several gardaí and using a large digger - lasted for several hours, but no remains were discovered and the search has now been called off.

A Garda spokesperson said that the excavation was carried out in order to provide a humane burial to any remains that may have been found, and not  for any investigative purposes. There is no Garda enquiry into the century-old cold case.

Tuesday's search has piqued the interest of historians, as Mr Brennan has never featured in a list of civilians and suspected informers killed by the IRA in Kerry during the 1919 to 1921 independence struggle. Nine identified civilians and informers are known to have been killed by the IRA in Kerry during the war.

If Mr Brennan - who it is thought earned his living selling miraculous medals and other religious items - was killed by the IRA, it would add a tenth name to that list. Renowned historian Ryle Dwyer - an expert on the  period - said he had never seen mention of Mr Brennan, or his death, in any files or witness testimonies from the time.