George Lennon had begun fighting Crown forces at age fifteen, was twice imprisoned, and fought on the Republican side in the Civil War and commanded his own Flying Column in Waterford.
George spent his days seizing weapons and holding up troop trains. His role as a commander meant he also made life and death decisions – decisions that would have a profound impact on him in the years ahead. One of those decisions involved the capture of a member of the RIC during an ambush at The Burgery, outside Dungarvan.
The RIC man – Sergeant Michael Hickey – was a childhood acquaintance of George’s. But there is little room for sentiment in war, and George ordered that Hickey be executed.
Hickey was Catholic and Irish, but that wouldn’t save him. The fact was that he could identify several of the attackers and they couldn’t risk letting him go. Before he was shot, Sergeant Hickey pleaded for his life, as George recalled in his memoir, Trauma in Time.
‘I knew you as a child,’ the policeman said. ‘You are the only person in the world that can save me.’
‘I would give anything in the world to save you,’ Lennon replied. ‘But I cannot.’
As George Lennon later recalled, the two men exchanged a ‘glance of understanding’.
Hickey, who had turned 36 the day before and was soon to wed, squared his shoulders. Lennon blindfolded the RIC man and ordered the executioners to fire. Shots rang out. Hickey slumped to the ground, dead.
Lennon walked over to his body and fired one shot into Hickey’s head, before having a tag placed on his body that said ‘Police Spy’.
It was a brutal act, but war breeds brutality.
Photo: George Lennon with fellow IRA veteran Roger McCorley in 1939, Courtesy of Waterford Co. Museum