On Sunday 14th November 1920, Fr. Michael Griffin was lured from his house by British forces. A witness later claimed that it was a Galway RIC man who committed this betrayal. At that time Father Griffin was curate in Rahoon parish and lived in the presbytery there. While he himself was not a member of the IRA he was well known as a Republican priest. Indeed it was because of his Republicanism that he was murdered. Though the Black and Tans and RIC were not adverse to random killings they picked Father Griffin for very specific reasons.
In September that year he was called to give the last rites to Seamus Quirke an officer of the IRA who was shot seven times down at the docks of the city. He died of his wounds. Later that same month Father Griffin concelebrated at the funeral mass of Michael Walsh who was murdered by the Black and Tans. This was a very perilous time to be living in. The Tans and the RIC were running amok across the country. Towns and villages were being put to the torch and innocent civilians, women and children were being murdered. A young mother Ellen Quinn was shot by the RIC as she cradled her child in Kilktartan, Co. Galway on the first of November. The RIC report said that she was “shot as a precaution”. Against the tyranny of British Rule there stood only the Irish Republic and the brave Volunteers of the IRA.
The Brits, as they do today, employed informers extensively during this period. One such man they had spying for them was Patrick Joyce who was the principal of Bearna National School. The IRA, however, realised that there would be people willing to spy on them and report their activities to the enemy. In 1920 the Irish Republic and the IRA had the support of the majority of the people of Ireland and so there were patriotic people in all walks of life wiling to do their duty. People within the post office would examine letters addressed to the forces of occupation to see who was sending them what information. It was discovered that Joyce was one of these informers and he was sending the Brits information. In one of the letters he wrote to them he explained why local men were joining the IRA.
“These men who joined the Volunteers”, he wrote “did so because they were being encouraged by Curates Griffin and O’Meehan who kept telling them that men should never be afraid or scared, that it was only women and children who suffered fear.”
This was damning evidence and Joyce was convicted and shot by the IRA.
So on a terrible night of wind and rain the Brits set out to get their revenge. They went looking for Tommy Dillon a professor of chemistry at Galway University but he escaped them. It is clear that their actions were premeditated as three men raiding the Kennedy house mentioned that they had a terrible job to do later on that night. A witness later saw these three men, believed to have been called Barker, Ward and Smith, in a military lorry with the body of Father Griffin.
After they lured Father Griffin from his house he was interrogated and then shot through the head. His body was taken in the lorry out to Barna where they buried him in a shallow grave. For a week there was much speculation about the disappearance of the young priest but then a local farmer, William Duffy, discovered his body on November 20th. The killing shook Galway and indeed it is still remembered to this day.