Kevin Barry’s execution and Terence MacSwiney’s death precipitated a dramatic escalation in violence as the Irish War of Independence entered its most bloody phase. MacSwiney and Barry were elevated to the status of republican martyrs and presented to the world as examples of British tyranny in Ireland. But their deaths also led indirectly to a week of less well-known bloodshed in Co Kerry. By the time of the truce in July 1921, 136 people had been killed in Co Kerry.
Lieutenant Eddie Carmody was born in Moyvane, Co Kerry and at a very young age moved to Ballylongford, the birthplace of The O’Rahilly, to work on a local farm. He was an exceptional athlete and Gaelic footballer. He was a man of great character, with great fortitude, virtue and integrity.
On 17 March 1915, Eoin MacNeil, visited Killarney for the purpose of reorganising Volunteers. The meeting was attended by men from all over the county. After the surrender in Dublin after the 1916 Rising, Volunteer activity ceased in Ballylongford until April 1917, when a Sinn Féin club was formed.
In October 1917, a Volunteer organiser from Dublin visited Ballylongford and a meeting of the Sinn Féin club was held in the local hall. The organiser addressed the members and appealed to the young men present to reorganise and join the IRA. Sixteen men joined, including Eddie Carmody, who was appointed First Lieutenant. Their arms consisted of two .32 revolvers and one shotgun.
The level of conflict would intensify in January 1920 when the Black and Tans were deployed in the area. The ‘Tans’ as they were known locally were ex-British soldiers recruited to be a paramilitary quasi-fascist terror force in Ireland, whose primary purpose was to intimidate the local people into submission. Things were heating up in the area, with IRA activity against the British forces intensifying, with shooting incidents and sabotage of British rule increasing enormously. The reaction was a much higher degree of reprisal and terrorising of the locals by both the RIC and the Tans. This culminated in a situation where the local IRA took an RIC man and a Black and Tan prisoner; they had been captured by the IRA in the avenue leading to the church in Ballylongford. The RIC man and the Tan had been involved in a vain attempt to detain parishioners after devotions. After some negotiations, they were released unharmed, after being held overnight in Moyvane. This represented another damaging humiliation for the British forces in the Ballylongford area. It was obvious that a strong response would soon follow. In the aftermath of this action, the local volunteers were ordered by the IRA Kerry HQ to place their arms in a dump temporarily, since Ballylongford was to be swamped in a search for arms. According to the former IRA officer, Brian O’Grady, this meant that the volunteers were not able to resist effectively when the Tans did come looking for revenge.
Therefore, it was in reprisal for these earlier actions, that on the morning of the 21 November 1920, Ballylongford was flooded by a force of Tans and police that arrived in four or five Lorries. This began days of searches and intimidation by the RIC and the Tans throughout the village, interspersed with numerous visits to pubs, where copious quantities of beer and spirits were consumed at the unfortunate landlords (enforced) expense. In the early part of the evening a large number of Tans emerged and started firing their guns and smashing windows in the Tea lane area, and then proceeded to do the same in Bridge Street. A group of unarmed IRA men were dispersed around the village to advise people to avoid where the Tans were congregated.
At some point a patrol of Tans proceeded up Tea lane again. Eddie Carmody had been at a crossroads with some of the local IRA when he heard footsteps approaching; he thought them to be members of the local company. However, as he went towards the sound of the footsteps, he discovered they were those of a group of Tans and was ambushed. He was severely wounded after being fired upon, however, he managed to escape a few hundred yards. The Tans followed his trail of blood, dragged him onto the road, and kicked and beat him with their rifle butts. After being stabbed by the soldiers bayonets, he was shot several times in the face before he died and was marked by much drunken cheer. The Tans put Eddie’s body in a cart and dragged him through the village to the local barracks, where he was left outside in a turf shed, until his father collected his body the following day.
It is believed that Lieutenant Eddie Carmody was making his way to retrieve guns from the nearest dump to the village.
Edward Carmody was laid to rest in Murhur Cemetery, and was accorded full IRA military honours. He has been honoured every year without fail since his death.
Featured Image | Eddie Carmody’s Gravesite, Murhur Cemetery, Moyvane, Co Kerry
Image | Chairperson of the Volunteer Eddie Carmody Sinn Féin Cumann, Moss Moriarty with Josh Moriarty and Martin Ferris | Courtesy of An Phoblacht