Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 22 Mar 1928

Vol. 22 No. 15


In the absence of Deputy O'Reilly, I asked a question of the Minister for Defence yesterday with regard to the late Frank O'Grady, of Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry. I asked if the Minister was prepared to hold an inquiry into this case, and secondly, if he was prepared to make some provision for the relatives of O'Grady owing to his death. The Minister replied that he was not prepared to do either. I asked him then if he was aware that this boy, Frank O'Grady, was shot by an officer of the National Army in the presence of 200 people, while a prisoner, and his answer to that question was a question: Did I know that he was in arms against the Government of the country? I consider that as a very insufficient answer. I did not think that even a Minister who, three or four years ago, held the views that the Minister for Defence did, would publicly take responsibility for making a statement that it was sufficient justification for shooting an unarmed prisoner to say that he had previously taken up arms against the Government. Therefore I said I would like to raise this matter on the adjournment.

On Sunday, 11th March, 1923, a batch of prisoners was being removed to Killorglin. They were to be met at Mountain Stage by an escort from Killorglin. This escort was under two officers named Lyons and McGuinness. When this escort from Killorglin reached Glenbeigh they divided into two detachments, and one went by what is known as the Curragh road, and the other went the main road. McGuinness on his way searched the house of a man called Sullivan, and arrested there this Frank O'Grady along with another boy called Michael Cahill. Frank O'Grady did not give his own name; he gave the name of O'Shea. Eventually the two parties met; that is, the party under Lyons and the party under McGuinness met at Mountain Stage, and there also they met a party which was coming towards Killorglin with other prisoners. As it was a Sunday morning, people were going to Mass, and they rounded up big numbers—they had almost 200 prisoners in all by the time the three parties met at Mountain Stage. Now, it was McGuinness who with his detachment arrested Captain O'Grady and Cahill.

Perhaps it might be better if the Deputy did not mention the names of the officers at all. Rather than mention any names, would it not be better to refer to them as officers? Would it not be better not to mention the names of individual officers—not to refer to individual officers by name at all in a matter like this, seeing that a particular accusation is being made?

Is it wrong?

On principle it is wrong to do so. If the Deputy would say that there were two parties under two officers, and not mention them by name, it might be better. A name, of course, was mentioned yesterday, but as a general principle it is undesirable that the name of any particular person should be mentioned in the Dáil, particularly when a certain accusation is being made. Of course there is complete privilege in regard to any statements made in the Dáil.

The difficulty is that when we bring up these cases here the Minister invariably denies all knowledge and insists in sneering at the relatives of people who were murdered by his troops during the civil war. We have nothing left to us but to give the full facts of the case. I suggest that Deputy Ryan should be allowed to give the full facts, as the Minister has again treated the murder of this prisoner with contempt. I think you should allow Deputy Ryan to go ahead and give the full facts of the case and allow the House to decide on the matter.

The Deputy will appreciate that there is no objection to Deputy Ryan giving the full facts of the case, but he can do that without mentioning the names of individuals. A particular accusation is being made, and I have suggested that the Deputy might confine himself to mentioning officers without giving their names. Deputy Aiken himself has mentioned a word just now. I think he used the word "murder" and referred to the murder of a prisoner. The use of such words is likely to raise ill-feeling, and that is the sort of word than can be bandied about considerably. The privilege of using it, if it is allowed to be used at all, could not possibly be confined to one side. Deputy Aiken speaks of the murder of a prisoner. That really amounts to an accusation in the House against a particular individual. I would prefer if the names could be kept out of this debate altogether. In fact, as regards the word "murder," it is a most disorderly word, and owing to our peculiar position perhaps we have not sufficiently emphasised that certain words must not be used. As a general principle Deputies themselves will realise—and I think it will apply for all time to the House—that accusations against definite individuals, officers of the State or otherwise, by name, should not be made, and the reason is that these individuals have no redress—none whatever. Deputy Ryan is giving what he will agree is his own statement, one side's statement of the case. That statement, having been made, it may contain a name or names. Deputy Ryan can make any statement he chooses to make. The rules of order here are altogether different from the rules of a court. The Deputy may make any statement he pleases, but if he makes a statement against an individual, that individual has no remedy whatever except in so far as whatever the Minister may state subsequently. On the whole, I think it would be better to refer merely to an officer of the National Army.

I agree that it is unfair, perhaps, as the person mentioned would have no redress against me, but I will be able to indicate, anyway, how the man in question met his death.

It is obvious that in spite of what I say the names will become clear, by implication, to certain people who know the facts.

As I said, the three detachments met at Mountain Stage and they had about 200 prisoners. Some of them were only rounded up going to Mass. This boy O'Grady was unknown to the officer who arrested him, and he had given the name of O'Shea because he was very well known in the district and he knew that if he gave his own name he would be arrested and, if he did not, he might possibly get off. When he was brought to Mountain Stage the people naturally all said: "There is O'Grady," and that identified him. A certain officer walked up to Frank O'Grady, put out his hand to him, and said: "How are you, Frank?" and as Frank put out his hand this officer struck him with a Peter the Painter on the head. The second officer remarked: "Why dirty your hands on the——?" calling him an offensive name, and the first officer again pulled his Peter the Painter and fired at O'Grady point blank, shooting him, and again when on the ground he fired a second bullet into him which killed him. Afterwards one member of the party, who was not an officer, fired from a rifle as O'Grady was on the ground, but missed him. At any rate, the officer who shot him asked if there was first aid about and one of the prisoners stepped forward but found that nothing could be done for O'Grady, that he was practically dead. He was brought into a house where he was found to be dead, and the Free State officers and soldiers marched away with the remaining prisoners, not taking them all, but taking certain prisoners to Killorglin.

It would be no harm, at any rate, to mention the names of witnesses and their addresses, witnesses who are prepared to swear to a certain officer shooting Frank O'Grady, an unarmed prisoner, without any provocation whatsoever. In fact, as I mentioned, while Frank O'Grady was putting out his hand to shake hands with the same officer he was hit, knocked down and then shot. The witnesses who are prepared to testify to that are:—Michael O'Connor, Railway Cottage, Curragh, Glenbeigh, Kerry; Michael Cahill, Glenbeigh, Kerry; Maurice Burke, Mountain Stage, Glenbeigh, Kerry; Mrs. Johanna Digges, Mountain Stage, Glenbeigh, Kerry; Michael Digges, Mountain Stage, Glenbeigh, Kerry, and Mrs. Bridget Sugrue, the same address. Unfortunately, most of the witnesses who, however, might not be considered as impartial witnesses by the Minister for Defence—that is, the prisoners who were with him—are now in America, but those I have mentioned were in the vicinity at the time going to Mass and they saw this being done.

Those names are available for the Minister for Defence, and he can get statements from these people if he wants them with regard to this crime. I am not sure but that the Minister may say he is powerless to act in the matter as the amnesty may cover it. I I do not know whether he is powerless or not. At any rate, he is not powerless to act with regard to the second part of the question, in which I asked if compensation would be paid to the relatives of this man. Frank O'Grady was an only son. His father, mother, two sisters and himself lived on a small farm near Glenbeigh. One of the sisters is married, and the other is at home at present with her father and mother, both of whom are old. They have no one to look after the little bit of land they have, and they are very poor. I think this is a case in which the Minister for Defence might consider giving them something as compensation for depriving them of their only son. I know, or at least I can make a fair guess, that when the Minister replies he is going to talk about anarchy and men being in arms against the Government. He will perhaps say to me as he said yesterday: "Can you prove that he was not in arms against the State?" He was not armed when he was arrested, but I think that he would possibly have taken up arms, or had taken up arms perhaps against the National Army. I am not sure about that. I have no doubt about this, that he was a well-known figure in the Anglo-Irish war, and a well-known fighting man in Kerry against the British. He may not have thought it right to change his opinions when the Treaty came along and take his side with the Minister for Defence. He may have thought, like many another young person at that time, that he was bound to abide by the oath that he had taken, saying, "I will support and defend the Irish Republic and the Government of the Irish Republic, which is Dáil Eireann, against all enemies, foreign and domestic." That is all I have to say on the case. Personally I am not out for vengeance in this matter now that the case has gone so far, but I would appeal to the Minister for Defence to see that these people are not left in poverty as a result of their loss.

I was really asked two questions in one. One was "Would I have an inquiry held?" and the second was "Would I pay compensation to this man's people?" The Deputy suggests that my question to him yesterday had it been proved that this man had not been in arms against the State—meant that I considered it perfectly justifiable for an unarmed person under any circumstances whatsoever to be shot. I meant nothing of the sort. As to No. 1 question would I hold an inquiry I answered "no." The reason is, as was read out in the Dáil on the 11th November, 1924, that an amnesty was granted for all acts committed or purported to be committed in furtherance of an armed rebellion against the State, or in the suppression of it. During the last few days Deputies have been complaining of certain people being in jail. I believe it is possible if that amnesty had not been granted that many, or some, of the Deputies opposite would still be in jail. I have no doubt that if it had not been granted many of their friends would have been duly executed. An amnesty was granted. I look at the utility of things. If all that the Deputies say, and that their friends like to say from time to time, are true is there any useful effect to be got from the holding of an inquiry?

I consider, and I know a certain amount about this case, that even if all the Deputy says were true an inquiry is useless. There was again the question "Would I grant compensation"? The Deputy opposite said that when I came to reply it was likely I would use the word "anarchy," and I will. When you have a state of anarchy with armed people going about waging war against the Government and the people of the country it is inevitable, I think, that certain innocent people suffer by wounding, loss of property, or by being killed. If it was suggested that this man was a decent upright citizen and had not taken part in this criminal offence, naturally it would be brought home to me there was a question for compensation. Although I know a certain amount about this case, I have not that absolute assurance that I am always right and perfectly informed which is such a feature of the speeches on the other side. If I had proof that this man was a decent citizen who had been shot unwarrantedly, not having taken part in the rebellion, I would consider that there was a case for compensation, but as long as I am in my present office I am not going to recommend— though I may have every sympathy with the parents of this man, who might be decent people—that the people who wage war upon the Irish people shall be given ex gratia grants from the Government. We suffer from the great disadvantage that we are the Government. We cannot get up and ask the gentlemen opposite are they going to pay out of their own pockets the people who suffered through their acts, or for the acts of the unfortunate people who were misled by them.

I did not ask the Minister to pay out of his own pocket.

The National Army is there as a butt for the very people—I will not necessarily be including the Deputies in this—who murdered the members of the National Army. I may say quite plainly that I do not like to use the word "murder," as you, A Chinn Comhairle, objected to Deputies using that word. It is a word I am not found of using.

I am fond of using that word and will use it again.

I will stop the Deputy if he does use it.

You will not and no one in the House will stop me.

I will certainly stop the Deputy using that word.

We will see.

And particularly as having reference to members of this House.

Murder having reference to certain Deputies here and members of the Ministry. I used the word before and I will use it again.

The Deputy will have to realise that if he uses the word "murder" members on the other side might accuse members on his side of being murderers. Surely it is not thought by anyone that the proceedings of the House could be carried on on that basis.


Is it or is it not murder to shoot an unarmed prisoner without trial?

I am not in a position to give a definition, and if the Minister would proceed——

I was going——

Why is the Minister allowed to use the word "murder"?

As the Minister said, I do not like the word "murder." When Deputy Aiken used the word "murder" this evening in this debate he used it about a particular incident. That has to be taken in conjunction with the statement and the name of the person given yesterday who was alleged to have killed or murdered him. The Minister's statement is that members of the National Army were murdered; that is a vaguer and much less definite statement. I would prefer if the word "murder" were not used at all.

I was going to try to mitigate it by suggesting to the members opposite that from the point of view of civilised people, when people go out in armed warfare against their own people and against the legitimate Government of the State, the shootings they do do not come within the ordinary category of shootings that take place in war.

On a point of information, would the Minister say how he would describe people who go out against their own people and their own Government on the orders and instructions of the enemies of their country— foreign enemies of their country?

Would the Minister describe the shooting of Frank O'Grady as the act of a civilised person? Get down to facts. The Amnesty Act was introduced, let us be clear about this, not as an act of mercy to Deputies on this side, but to cover up the dirty acts of their own followers.

That is not so.

The point is, can we discuss that particular question in 1928? The question that arises is the question of compensation.

I would remind the Minister that we never asked you for any mercy. It is war to the knife.

These people do not want sympathy from the Minister.

Because there was a possibility of an ex gratia grant in this case, the question appeared on the Order Paper, and it is the question of compensation that has to be discussed.

Might I ask what is the difference between a mutineer in the Free State Army and one who took up arms against the Free State Army? One was compensated and the other was shot.

If I am allowed to continue we may be able to finish in time. Deputies have asked is it murder for an unarmed prisoner to be shot. It may be or it may not be, according to the circumstances of the case. National soldiers had, I think, about the previous day met their death by violence at the hands of the enemies of this State. There was a state of great danger there. Deputies referred, I think, the other day to escapes from Mountjoy. They asked if a prisoner escaped would anybody blame him. Deputies on the other side do not. But in the circumstances here in March, 1923, the officer in this case had a number of prisoners. Under the circumstances he could not take a risk if he legitimately considered that a prisoner was trying to escape, especially a man who, as the Deputy admitted, had taken an active part in warfare that led to deaths.

Is the Minister implying that Frank O'Grady was making an attempt to escape? What justification has the Minister for that statement.

He learned it from the Black and Tans.

Will Deputies kindly listen. The question was asked "Is it not murder if an unarmed prisoner is shot?" I said that under certain circumstances it is, and under certain other circumstances it is not.

Under the special circumstances of this case was it murder or was it not?

To the best of my knowledge it was not murder.

That is a straight answer.

So far as a man who took part in warfare against this State, and met his death as a result of that, or of something that purported to be a result of that, I am not prepared to recommend compensation. We are told these men went out ready to give up everything, but when it comes to the point they want to get paid for it. As to the case put up to me, I have no intention, on the facts as I have them, of paying any compensation. I asked the Deputy could he give me any proof that the man was not a participant in this. I believe, I may be wrong, that he was not only a participant but a particularly active participant, and that by his actions a few days before that men in the service of the Government had met their death. I do not feel called upon to recommend ex gratia grants for people who had taken the lives of men who were serving this country.

Did the murderer get a pension?

That is all I have to say on the matter. I know that these things are largely brought up for the purpose of propaganda. I have no doubt, under the circumstances, regrettable and unjustifiable cases happened, if you like, on each side. That might easily be. Deputies on the other side can get up and give their stories, not strictly correct, coloured ones and make ex parte statements. As far as I know the circumstances of this case are that this was a man who had taken part in fighting on the previous day. Deputies say he was unarmed on this occasion. That may be the case. I know that they had a habit there of picking up their guns and shooting and then running away and hiding. I do not know how long before this he was armed. He was arrested in a house some distance up the road and brought down with other prisoners. He was lined up with these prisoners when they were being questioned. The Deputy says that the officer did not know this man, and on the other hand he said that the prisoner was putting out his hand to shake hands with him. I cannot myself quite picture how that could happen.

Will the Minister investigate this story? It may be true or it may be false, but will he investigate it and put the results of his investigation before the House? Will the Minister do that?

I think I understood the Minister to say that he was quite satisfied on the evidence before him that this man's death was justifiable.

Yes, on the evidence I had. It seems to me this man was arrested and brought down and lined up with certain other prisoners. We are told that he gave a false name to the officer. This officer was in a dangerous situation there, as he had only a small body of troops. I was told, and I believe that this man once he was known, had a very good chance of being executed. I quite believe that Deputies opposite will say: "Would you blame the man for making an attempt to escape?" It comes to the question as to whether the officer in charge really believed that he was attempting to escape. That is a thing which neither Deputies on the other side nor I can know for certain. I believe the officer was bona fide convinced that the man was attempting to escape.

Is that why he fired at him twice while he was lying wounded on the ground?

Neither the Deputies opposite nor I are in the position to give an impression of what was in the officer's mind.

They can tell you what was in this man's head—a bullet. Can the Minister say that the man had it in his mind to escape?

Was it for the same reason that Patrick Mulrennan was shot in Athlone?

The only man that I remember being shot in Athlone was General Adamson.

May I ask the Minister a question? Will the Minister give an assurance——

I will give no assurance whatever.

The Dáil adjourned at 9 o'clock until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 23rd March, 1928.