Margaret Skinnider

Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2020), Letters, Volume 28

Sir,—Dr Mary McAuliffe’s article (HI 28.2, March/April 2020) and recently published biography of Margaret Skinnider are to be warmly welcomed as throwing another light on Irish republican activists of a century ago, and especially those survivors for whom revolution did not lead to fame or political careers but who nonetheless continued their activism throughout their lives. Hopefully this trend will continue and we will see others tackled, such as Róisín Walsh/Breathnach (who was to become the pioneering Dublin City Librarian).

We should also welcome Dr McAuliffe’s support for a correction to the widespread misconception that the refusal of a wounds pension to Skinnider in the 1920s was on account of her sex. Brigid Lyons Thornton, a military service applicant whose case encountered a similar civil servant note on the ‘masculine definition’ of soldiering, also featured in the same 2014 records release. However, Lyons Thornton would get her military service certificate and a pension award at the end of 1926, undoubtedly owing to her solidly Treatyite credentials, as opposed to Skinnider. (A second female applicant with National Army service, Patricia Hoey, would fail in her pension application not on the basis of sex but on the definition of ‘military service’.)

That this case was absent from the media coverage of Skinnider’s pension experience is greatly to be regretted, though a connection between the two cases—and Civil War politics being the real determinant here for the Skinnider pension application—has been noted before, in the biographical entry for Lyons Thornton in Dublin City Council and the 1916 Rising (Four Courts Press, 2016). Hopefully we can now have a better-informed debate around the actual politics surrounding Cumann na nGaedheal and their deeply controversial enactments of pensions for former revolutionaries.—Is mise,

DAVID FLOOD

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