Donie O’Reilly

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 3 (Autumn 1999), Letters, Letters, Revolutionary Period 1912-23, Volume 7

Sir—In your last issue Brian Hanley refers to a ‘Donie O’Neill’ as oneof the defenders of Connolly House during a violent anti-Communistattack in March 1933. The name mentioned is obviously a misprint forDonie O’Reilly. Not alone was he a founder member of the CommunistParty of Ireland in June 1933, he was one of the first group who wentwith Frank Ryan to form the Irish contingent of the InternationalBrigade in the fight against Franco. He was the son of T.K. O’Reilly,the composer of Wrap the Green Flag around me boys. His father andthree brothers took part in the Easter 1916 Rising, but Donie thenthirteen, was left at home but found his way to the centre of thefighting in Dublin’s General Post Office on the second day of theRising. He was sent home by Tom Clarke. However he later served withthe 5th Battalion of the IRA in the ‘Black and Tan’ war. He was withhis comrade Bill Gannon in the Four Courts garrison, later they weretogether in Mountjoy prison. There he became particularly friendly withLiam Mellowes who, prior to his execution, gave him a chessman as akeepsake. O’Reilly was later held in Newbridge internment camp were heparticipated in the hunger strike of 1923. In Spain with theInternational Brigade he was wounded in the battle of Cordoba, December1938. After Spain he returned to trade union activities in Ireland. Hewas an executive member of the Plasterers Union and a delegate to theDublin Trades Council and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions until hissudden death on 7 May 1968. As a recipient of the Irish government’sWar of Independence medal he was, like his friend Bill Gannon, accordedmilitary honours by the Irish army at his funeral. In my book ConnollyColumn—the story of the Irishmen who fought for the Spanish Republic1936-1939, he contributed an appendix dealing with his memories of 1916(pp. 194-196 ). Brian Hanley makes the point that neither the IRA, theLabour Party nor the trade union leadership proper was against thepogrom violence. However to her great and indomitable courage CharlotteDespard opposed it and wrote and published her poem ‘ConnollyHouse’.—Yours etc.,

MICHAEL O’RIORDAN

Connolly House
Temple Bar

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