#OTD in 1923 – Anti-Treaty IRA officer Charlie Daly and three other Republican fighters are executed by Free State troops at Drumboe Castle, near Stranorlar in Co Donegal where they had been held since January.

They were shot in retaliation for the death of Lt. Cannon, a pro-treaty National Army soldier, in an ambush at the barracks at Creeslough.

(By Seamus G O’Kelly)

It was the summer of 1920. Republican forces in Munster, particularly in Cork and Kerry, were being hard pressed by the British, and were carrying more than their share of the struggle. The Western Brigades were doing their best to ease the situation, as were Limerick, Waterford, Dublin and other parts of Leinster.

But pressure on the extreme South was very great. Cork had been declared a Martial Law area. So had Kerry. Thousands of British troops were concentrated in these two counties, and if the war against was to be carried out at all, there had to be an easing of the pressure, temporarily at any rate.
IRA General Headquarters in Dublin reviewed the situation. Then they took a decision. Ulster was too quiet. The Ulstermen must be organised and brought into the fight on a more widespread scale, so Headquarters appointed a Kerryman to carry out the job. His name was Charlie Daly.

Charlie Daly was born at Knockanecoulteen in 1896. He went to school, first to Balyfinane National School, and later to the Christian Brothers at Tralee. From his very earliest youth, Charlie served his country, and, when the Volunteers were started in 1913, he was one of the first in Kerry to join.

There was a day coming when Kerrymen would play their part, and a big one, in the struggle for Ireland’s freedom, and in that struggle, Commandant General Charlie Daly was one of the foremost leaders. Charlie was first arrested by the British in May 1917. He was tried in November that year and was sentenced to 12 months, but he escaped and went “on the run”.

He was again arrested in September 1918, and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, the greatest part of which he spent in solitary confinement in Cork Jail.

Here, his health completely broke down, and he became almost blind. As a result, the British released him in the belief that he was almost finished, and that as far as they were concerned, he would fight no more.

But they were wrong as far as Charlie Daly was concerned, for the man had an iron will. Less than two months after his release, he had rejoined his unit and was again out in the hills with the Kerry Flying Column.

Early in 1920, Charlie Daly was brought to Dublin, where he became attached to G.H.Q. Staff. After a very short period there, he was sent to County Tyrone, with instructions to organise the local units into flying columns on the same pattern as those operating in the South and West. Right well did he accomplish his task, until his capture in January 1921, when he was interned at Collinstown Camp, Co Dublin.

The Truce in July which led to the negotiations for a treaty, brought Charlie’s release from Collinstown. He immediately returned to the north, where he had been appointed Officer Commanding the Second Northern Division of the IRA. He succeeded Eion O’Duffy in this post.
Charlie Daly never believed that the Truce would end in peace.

He did not believe that England was yet ready to concede full freedom to Ireland, and to recognise our status as a sovereign, independent Republic, and, above all, he did not believe that the Dail delegation would accept less than that. He therefore spent the months of Truce preparing his Division for a resumption of hostilities as soon as the negotiations broke down.

It was a great shock to him when he heard that the Treaty was signed, and from the very first moment he declared his opposition to it, for Charlie Daly was a Republican, and nothing but the International recognition of the Irish Republic would satisfy him.

In the days that followed the treaty, this young Kerryman’s heart was torn by anxiety and anguish. Many of his fellow officers, and a great portion of the men of the Second Northern supported Michael Collins and the Treaty, but the fact that they were in the Six Counties, which was still occupied by foreign troops, kept them together a little longer than was the case in the rest of the country, where the IRA was now split into two hostile camps.

But the month of June 1922 settled everything with Charlie Daly. Tragedy had hit Ireland. Civil War blazed forth in all its horror.

So, gathering together the remnants of his Division, which still believed in the Republic, Daly and his Vice Commandant, Frank Carney, crossed the border into Donegal to oppose the Free State troops marching in from Sligo.

The small Republican force in Donegal held out for a brief period only. Then they took to the mountains in small bands. On November 2, 1922, Charlie Daly was captured and imprisoned at Drumboe Castle. Here he was held until January 16th,1923, when he was court-martialled and sentenced to death. He was executed on March 14th, 1923. Executed with him were three comrades – Daniel Enright, Sean Larkin and Timothy O’Sullivan. Enright and O’Sullivan were also Kerrymen.

Charlie Daly from Kerry gave his life in Donegal, so that Ireland might be united and free. Today, his name stands as high on the role of Irish heroes as that of the Corkman, Thomas Russell, “The man from God knows where”, who gave his life for Ireland at Downpatrick, after Emmet’s failure in 1803.

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