#OTD in 1920 – Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, arrested by British; he immediately goes on hunger strike.

“It’s not those who inflict the most, but those that endure the most, that shall prevail.” –Terence MacSwiney

Terence MacSwiney was arrested in Cork for possession of seditious articles and documents, and also possession of a cipher key. He began a hunger strike in protest and was joined by ten other prisoners. IRA officers Liam Lynch and Sean Hegarty were also arrested, but mistakenly released by the British.

Following his court-martial in 1920, Terence MacSwiney, the Lord Mayor of Cork, greeted his sentence of two years in jail by declaring: ‘I have decided the term of my imprisonment: I shall be free, alive or dead, within a month.’ Four days earlier, British troops had stormed the City Hall in Cork and arrested MacSwiney on charges of possessing an RIC cipher and documents likely to cause disaffection to his Majesty. He immediately began a hunger strike that sparked riots on the streets of Barcelona, caused workers to down tools on the New York waterfront, and prompted mass demonstrations from Buenos Aires to Boston. Enthralled by MacSwiney breaking all previous records for a prisoner going without food, the international press afforded the case so much coverage that Ireland’s War of Independence was suddenly parachuted onto the world stage, and King George V considered over-ruling Prime Minister Lloyd George and enduring a constitutional crisis. As his family kept daily vigil around his bed in Brixton Prison, watching his strength ebb away hour by hour, MacSwiney’s fast had Michael Collins preparing reprisal assassinations.

Portrait of Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, Crawford Art Gallery, Co Cork

Posted by

Stair na hÉireann is steeped in Ireland's turbulent history, culture, ancient secrets and thousands of places that link us to our past and the present. With insight to folklore, literature, art, and music, you’ll experience an irresistible tour through the remarkable Emerald Isle.