On Sunday last more than 100 people attended a formal wreath laying ceremony commemorating the centenary of the executions of Charlie Daly, Daniel Enright, Timothy O’Sullivan and Séan Larkin at Drumboe Castle, Stranorlar, Co Donegal on the 14th March 1923.
It was held opposite the field in which the original Drumboe memorial is situated. This ceremony was organised by Donegal County Council and Donegal County Museum as part of County Donegal’s Decade of Centenaries Commemorations.
The Civil War lasted from June 1922 to May 1923. In Donegal, Pro-Treaty forces had control of the County but not without resistance from the Anti Treaty side. By the beginning of 1923, with many of their followers under arrest and with a general lack of support, it became clear that the Anti Treaty Forces had little chance of success.
At the beginning of November 1922, the Anti-Treaty HQ in Dublin ordered their forces to evacuate Donegal. On the 4th November, eight Anti-Treaty men were captured near Dunlewey and held in Drumboe Castle. They were charged with possession of rifles and other ammunition. The men were found guilty by court martial in January, but sentence was not passed. Under the provisions of the Public Safety Act, it was known that there was a possibility the men would be sentenced to death. Similar executions were happening across the country.
On 10th March, Captain Bernard Cannon, a Pro-Treaty officer, was killed in Creeslough and orders were received in Drumboe Castle to execute four men. At 7 am on 14th March 1923 Charlie Daly, Timothy O’Sullivan, Daniel Enright and Seán (Jack) Larkin were executed by firing squad.
This formal wreath laying ceremony acknowledged these events with sensitivity and respect. Attendees were welcomed by Cllr Liam Blaney, Cathaoirleach Donegal County Council who highlighted the work of the Culture Division.
He said “This, the last period of commemoration, is the most difficult for us. We have commemorated the 1916 Rising, World War One, the impacts of Partition, and the War of Independence. We are now endeavouring to commemorate the terrible months of the Civil War in an inclusive and empathetic manner.
Donegal County Council has been to the forefront of commemorating the events of the Decade of Centenaries in our County, particularly through the work of the Culture Division which comprises Libraries, Archives, Museum, Arts, the Heritage Office and the Regional Cultural Centre. For over a decade, these services have worked with communities and organisations to produce artwork, exhibitions, events, historical research, heritage and library materials, publications and education programmes, which have been delivered to communities throughout the County.
In this year, the final year of the ‘Decade’, the Culture Division will complete this work of providing communities with the opportunity to remember and explore the past with respect and understanding for all traditions. “
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, represented the Government at this ceremony.
He told those in attendance “On this weekend in particular it is vitally important that we commemorate with sensitivity and respect, as we remember the 4 men who were executed at Drumboe in March 1923, Charlie Daly, Timothy O’Sullivan and Daniel Enright, who were from Co Kerry, along with Sean Larkin, from Co Derry .
“The violence that was waged as part of Ireland’s Civil War and its outcome, was an appalling human tragedy for so many Irish families. Its legacies were many and left scars on succeeding generations, unhealed for decades. Both sides of the conflict carried out brutal acts: anti-Treaty forces killed a TD and several pro-Treaty politicians and burned many homes of Free State supporters, while the government officially executed 81 anti-Treaty prisoners. Many civilians also died during this brutal period in our history. The estimated total death toll for the Civil War is between 1,500-2,000 people.
“A century on, we are in a better position to seek to explore the fullness of the history of the period, doing so with courage and a sense of inclusiveness. We have an opportunity to construct a future for all who want to call this island home, with our diverse histories and memories all respectfully taken into account.
“The process of ethical remembering, the reflections we have made throughout this Decade of Centenaries, can help all of us in our journey together, towards a shared future that is marked by inclusivity, diversity, possibility, and a sharing of memory in conditions of peace – in a diverse country of which we can all be proud.”
Short Prayers, Readings, poetry and a jointly performed blessing were given by Very Rev Kieran McAteer, PP Stranorlar Parishes and Rev Adam Pullen, Rector of Stranorlar Church of Ireland. Members of the local Ballybofey & Stranorlar District Historical Society – Gerard Doherty, Mary Henderson, Donal MacCionnaith & Declan Collum read the last letters written to their mothers by Charlie Daly, Daniel Enright, Timothy O’Sullivan and Séan Larkin.
The ceremony concluded with the Wreath laying. Minister McConalogue laid a wreath on behalf of the Government, Cllr Liam Blaney, Cathaoirleach Donegal County Council laid a wreath on behalf of Donegal County Council , relatives of Charlie Daly and of Seán Larkin laid wreaths and Judith Mc Carthy, County Donegal Decade of Centenaries Coordinator and Caroline Carr, Donegal County Museum laid wreaths for Daniel Enright and Timothy O’Sullivan. The ceremony concluded with a piper playing the ‘Limerick Lament’.
On Tuesday 14th March, the ‘Drumboe 100’ exhibition will open in the Twin Towns Library in Stranorlar. The exhibition tells the story of the arrest and Court Martial of Charlie Daly, Daniel Enright, Timothy O’Sullivan and Séan Larkin, their execution, and its aftermath.