Mountjoy jail

Published in 20th Century Social Perspectives, 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 2 (Mar/Apr 2006), Letters, Letters, Volume 14

Sir,

—While in full agreement with Tim Carey’s platform (HI 14.1, Jan./Feb. 2006) that Mountjoy jail must not be demolished, I wish to correct the statement that: ‘The first four republicans to be executed during the Civil War were shot there by firing squad on 8 December 1922’.
That invidious distinction belongs to four young Volunteers, James Fisher, Peter Cassidy, John Gaffney and Richard Twohig, who were executed in Kilmainham jail on 17 November 1922. Lest we forget, the literary connection to Mountjoy is forever immortalised in Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake (‘The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly’):

‘He was one time our King of the Castle
Now he’s kicked about like a rotten old parsnip.
And from Green Street he’ll be sent by order of His Worship
To the penal jail of Mountjoy
(Chorus)
To the jail of Mountjoy!
Jail him and joy.’

—Yours etc.,
PETER REICHENBERG
New York

Shortly after going to press with my piece critical of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell, the relevant junior minister, Tom Parlon, and the Office of Public Works announced that, rather than give carte blanche for the redevelopment of the Mountjoy site, they were commissioning a master-plan for its regeneration, taking into account its historical and architectural significance.
Was it a case of Tim Carey and History Ireland saying ‘Jump!’ and the cabinet saying ‘How high?’ Unlikely, but it was a remarkable turnaround from a position a month before when it was still being announced that the 155-year-old prison would be consigned to the scrapheap of history. Whatever the reason for the change of heart (a sharp dose of common sense, perhaps?), it must be applauded.
Mr Reichenberg is indeed correct. The first Civil War executions were in Kilmainham, not Mountjoy.
TIM CAREY
General de Gaulle
Sir,—While I enjoyed the Museum Eye article on General de Gaulle, could it not have included a brief mention of his descent from the McCartans of Kinelarty, Co. Down? When he visited Ireland in the 1960s he mentioned his pride in this ancestry and arranged to meet a group of several dozen McCartans at Áras an Uachtaráin.—Yours etc.,
PATRICK GUINNESS
Naas
Co. Kildare

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