Terence Joseph MacSwiney was a playwright, author and politician. He was elected as Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork during the Irish War of Independence in 1920 after the murder of his friend Tomás Mac Curtain, the Lord Mayor of Cork on 20 March 1920.
Like Tomás Mac Curtain, he had been a member of the Irish Volunteers and an enthusiast for the Irish language. He had also been imprisoned following the Easter Rising. A talented writer, he wrote a drama entitled ‘The Revolutionist’, several volumes of poetry and a political tract entitled ‘The Principles of Freedom’. As well as being Lord Mayor of Cork he was the Commandant of the First Cork Brigade of the IRA.
On 12 August 1920 he was arrested for possession of seditious documents and of a cipher key to coded messages used by the RIC. He was tried by court martial on 16 August 1920 and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. After his arrest he immediately went on hunger strike. He was imprisoned in Brixton Prison where his continuing hunger strike attracted world-wide attention. Attempts at force-feeding MacSwiney were undertaken in the final days of his strike. On 20 October 1920, he fell into a coma and died five days later after 74 days on hunger strike. He died on 25 October 1920 and his body was brought home for burial. He lies beside Tómas MacCurtain in the Republican plot in Saint Finbarr’s Cemetery in Cork. His funeral on the 1 November 1920 attracted huge crowds. Cork City was plunged into mourning once again.
Photo: Portrait of Terence MacSwiney, Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork