His father, Richard Hanrahan, was involved in the 1867 Fenian rising. The family moved to Carlow, where Michael was educated at Carlow Christian Brothers’ School and Carlow College Academy. On leaving school he worked various jobs including a period alongside his father in the cork-cutting business. In 1898 he joined the Gaelic League and in 1899 founded the League’s first Carlow branch and became its secretary. By 1903 he was in Dublin, where he was working as a proof-reader for the Gaelic League printer Cló Cumann. He published journalism under the by-lines ‘Art’ and ‘Irish Reader’ in several nationalist newspapers, including Sinn Féin and the Irish Volunteer. He was the author of two novels A Swordsman of the Brigade (1914) and When the Norman Came (published posthumously in 1918).
In 1903 he became involved in Maud Gonne and Arthur Griffith’s campaign against the visit of King Edward VII to Ireland. The encounter with Griffith led O’Hanrahan to join the newly formed Sinn Féin. He also became a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. In November 1913 he joined the Irish Volunteers. O’Hanrahan was later employed as an administrator on the Volunteers headquarters staff. He was made quartermaster general of the 2nd Battalion. He and the commandant of the 2nd Battalion Thomas MacDonagh became close friends.
Michael was third in command, with Thomas MacDonagh in overall command. John MacBride was a late arrival to the Rising but was made second in command. He fought at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, though the battalion saw little action other than intense sniping throughout Easter week, as the British Army largely kept clear of the impregnable factory dominating the road from Portobello Barracks on one side and Dublin Castle on the other. When in May the situation became desperate O’Hanrahan told his c/o MacDonagh they ‘were inviting destruction of the factory by incendiary shells, and also of the surrounding thickly populated area’. MacDonagh ordered a break-out amidst the chaos and confusion. O’Hanrahan led with some difficulty the garrison out of the factory through New Bride Street gate.
His sister, Eily, visited him at Jacobs Factory. Eily O’Hanrahran was a founding member of Cumann na mBann and one of a number of dispatchers who made themselves available to the Irish Military Brotherhood. Eily and one of the Capuchin Friars visited O’Hanrahan the night before his execution and stayed with him for quite some time.
O’Hanrahan was executed by firing squad on 4 May 1916 at Kilmainham Gaol. His brother, Henry O’Hanrahan, was sentenced to penal servitude for life for his role in the Easter Rising.
Wexford Railway Station is named in commemoration of O’Hanrahan, as is the road bridge over the River Barrow at New Ross. O’Hanrahans GAA Club Carlow was founded in 1919 and is still, consistently, one of the top teams in the County.
Image | Michael O’Hanrahan | Colourised by Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland