When the Irish Civil War broke out in June 1922, Kevin O’Higgins tried to restore law and order by introducing tough measures. Between 1922 and 1923 he personally ordered the execution of seventy-seven republican prisoners including, Rory O’Connor (who had been best man at O’Higgins’ wedding), Liam Mellows, Dick Barrett and Joe McKelvey. O’Higgins and his colleagues did not view them as prisoners of war, but rather as criminals. In reprisal for O’Higgins’ role in the executions of captured republicans, the Anti-Treaty IRA murdered his father, Dr. Thomas Higgins, and burned his family home in Stradbally, Co Laois.
O’Higgins was also to die by the gun, shot while walking from his home in Blackrock to midday mass in Booterstown on 10 July 1927.
Photo: Back Row L-R: Éamon de Valera, Kevin O’Higgins and Rory O’Connor at O’Higgins’ wedding, 1921.