#OTD in 1920 – Cork IRA volunteer, Michael Fitzgerald, dies following a sixty-seven day hunger strike.

Michael Fitzgerald also known as Mick Fitzgerald, was among the first members of the Irish Republican Army and played an important role in organising it. He rose to the rank of Commandant OC in the 1st Battalion, Cork No.2 Brigade. He died in the 1920 hunger strike at Cork Gaol. His death is credited with bringing world-wide attention to the Irish cause for independence.

Born in Ballyoran, Fermoy, Co Cork, Fitzgerald was educated at the Christian Brothers School in the town and subsequently found work as a mill worker in the locality. He joined the Irish Volunteers in 1914 and played an important role in building the local organisation which was soon to become the Irish Republican Army (IRA). He soon rose to the rank of Battalion Commandant, 1st Battalion, Cork No.2 Brigade.

On Easter Sunday, 20 April 1919 Michael Fitzgerald led a small group of IRA volunteers who captured Araglin, Cork Royal Irish Constabulary Baracks located on the border with Tipperary. He was subsequently arrested and sentenced to three months imprisonment at Cork Jail. Fitzgerald was released from prison in August 1919 and immediately returned to active IRA duty. He was involved in the holding up of a party of British Army troops at the Wesleyan Church in Fermoy. The troops were disarmed although one of them was killed.

Michael Fitzgerald, along with Terence MacSwiney and nine other IRA volunteers, was arrested on 8 August 1920. On 11 August 1920, MacSwiney began a hunger strike. Fitzgerald and the other nine volunteers joined in. Fitzgerald was the first to die on 17 October 1920 as a result of the fast. He was followed by Joe Murphy and Terence MacSwiney. Their deaths are credited with bringing world-wide attention to the Irish cause for independence.

Michael Fitzgerald is buried at Kilcrumper Cemetery, on the outskirts of Fermoy. In addition, a road was named after him in Togher, Cork.

During a November 2008 visit to Fermoy, Co Cork Sinn Féin Vice-President Pat Doherty laid a wreath at Fitzgerald’s grave. Doherty said Fitzgerald’s sacrifice was like that of the hunger strikers in 1981. He said it was a great honour for him to pay homage to a man “to whom we owe so much.” Also buried in the Republican Plot in Fermoy is General Liam Lynch, who was Chief of Staff of the IRA when he was shot dead by Free State troops on the Knockmealdown Mountains on 12 April 1923. His last wish was to be buried with his great friend and comrade, Mick Fitzgerald.

Photo: Monument to Michael Fitzgerald at Fermoy

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