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Tom Barry

Tom Barry

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Thomas Barry (1 July 1897 – 2 July 1980) was one of the most prominent guerrilla
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 leader
Leadership
Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task". Other in-depth definitions of leadership have also emerged.-Theories:...

s in the Irish Republican Army
Irish Republican Army
The Irish Republican Army was an Irish republican revolutionary military organisation. It was descended from the Irish Volunteers, an organisation established on 25 November 1913 that staged the Easter Rising in April 1916...

 during the Irish War of Independence
Irish War of Independence
The Irish War of Independence , Anglo-Irish War, Black and Tan War, or Tan War was a guerrilla war mounted by the Irish Republican Army against the British government and its forces in Ireland. It began in January 1919, following the Irish Republic's declaration of independence. Both sides agreed...

.

Early life


Barry was born in Killorglin
Killorglin
Killorglin is a town in County Kerry, Ireland. It is located on the river Laune, which has a rowing club and a new boathouse. The population of Killorglin is 4,150 although this expands considerably during Puck Fair due to visitors and returning emigrants.Killorglin is a major activity centre...

, County Kerry
County Kerry
Kerry means the "people of Ciar" which was the name of the pre-Gaelic tribe who lived in part of the present county. The legendary founder of the tribe was Ciar, son of Fergus mac Róich. In Old Irish "Ciar" meant black or dark brown, and the word continues in use in modern Irish as an adjective...

. He was the son of a Royal Irish Constabulary
Royal Irish Constabulary
The armed Royal Irish Constabulary was Ireland's major police force for most of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. A separate civic police force, the unarmed Dublin Metropolitan Police controlled the capital, and the cities of Derry and Belfast, originally with their own police...

 policeman. Four years later, Thomas Barry Senior resigned and opened a business in his hometown of Rosscarbery
Rosscarbery
Rosscarbery or Roscarbery is a town in County Cork, Ireland. The town is on a shallow estuary, which opens onto Rosscarbery Bay.-History:...

, County Cork
County Cork
County Cork is a county in Ireland. It is located in the South-West Region and is also part of the province of Munster. It is named after the city of Cork . Cork County Council is the local authority for the county...

. Barry was educated for a period at Mungret College
Mungret College
Mungret College, situated west of Limerick, Ireland, near the village of Mungret, was a Jesuit apostolic school and a lay secondary school from 1882 until 1974 when it closed as a school for the last time. The college produced over 1000 priests in that period...

, County Limerick
County Limerick
It is thought that humans had established themselves in the Lough Gur area of the county as early as 3000 BC, while megalithic remains found at Duntryleague date back further to 3500 BC...

 from 25 August 1911 to 12 September 1912. The reason for his short stay is indicated by a reference from the school register of the Apostolic School, Mungret College; 'Went - Home (ran away) without knowledge of superiors - no vocation'.

In 1915, during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, he enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery
Royal Field Artillery
The Royal Field Artillery of the British Army provided artillery support for the British Army. It came into being when the Royal Artillery was divided on 1 July 1899, it was reamalgamated back into the Royal Artillery in 1924....

 at Cork and became a soldier in the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

. He fought in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamian Campaign
The Mesopotamian campaign was a campaign in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I fought between the Allies represented by the British Empire, mostly troops from the Indian Empire, and the Central Powers, mostly of the Ottoman Empire.- Background :...

 (then part of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, present day Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

). He rose to the rank of sergeant. Barry was offered a commission in the Munster Fusiliers but refused it. While outside Kut-el-Amara Barry first heard of the Easter Rising
Easter Rising
The Easter Rising was an insurrection staged in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing the Irish Republic at a time when the British Empire was heavily engaged in the First World War...

.

War of Independence


On his return to Cork he was involved with ex-servicemen's organisations. In 1920, Barry joined the 3rd (West) Cork Brigade of the Irish Republican Army
Irish Republican Army
The Irish Republican Army was an Irish republican revolutionary military organisation. It was descended from the Irish Volunteers, an organisation established on 25 November 1913 that staged the Easter Rising in April 1916...

 (IRA) which was then engaged in the Irish War of Independence
Irish War of Independence
The Irish War of Independence , Anglo-Irish War, Black and Tan War, or Tan War was a guerrilla war mounted by the Irish Republican Army against the British government and its forces in Ireland. It began in January 1919, following the Irish Republic's declaration of independence. Both sides agreed...

 (1919–1921). He was involved in brigade council meetings, was brigade-training officer, flying column
Flying column
A flying column is a small, independent, military land unit capable of rapid mobility and usually composed of all arms. It is often an ad hoc unit, formed during the course of operations....

 commander, was consulted by IRA General Headquarters Staff (GHQ), and also participated in the formation of the IRA First Southern Division. The West Cork Brigade became famous for its discipline, efficiency and bravery, and Barry garnered a reputation as the most brilliant field commander of the war.

On 28 November 1920, Barry's unit ambushed and killed almost a whole platoon of British Auxiliaries
Auxiliary Division
The Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary , generally known as the Auxiliaries or Auxies, was a paramilitary organization within the Royal Irish Constabulary during the Irish War of Independence....

 at Kilmichael
Kilmichael Ambush
The Kilmichael Ambush was an ambush near the village of Kilmichael in County Cork on 28 November 1920 carried out by the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence. Thirty-six local IRA volunteers commanded by Tom Barry killed seventeen members of the RIC Auxiliary Division...

, County Cork. In March 1921 at Crossbarry
Crossbarry Ambush
The Crossbarry Ambush occurred on 19 March 1921 and was one of the largest engagements of the Irish War of Independence. It took place at the rural crossroads of Crossbarry, County Cork, around 20 km south west of Cork city. About a hundred Irish Republican Army volunteers escaped an attempt...

 in the same county, Barry and 104 men, divided into seven sections, broke out of an encirclement of 1,200 strong British force from the Essex Regiment
Essex Regiment
The Essex Regiment was an infantry regiment of the British Army that saw active service from 1881 to 1958. Members of the regiment were recruited from across Essex county. Its lineage is continued by the Royal Anglian Regiment.-Origins:...

. In total, the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 stationed over 12,500 troops in County Cork during the conflict, while Barry's men numbered no more than 310. Eventually, Barry's tactics made West Cork ungovernable for the British authorities.

"They said I was ruthless, daring, savage, blood thirsty, even heartless. The clergy called me and my comrades murderers; but the British were met with their own weapons. They had gone in the mire to destroy us and our nation and down after them we had to go."

Civil War


During the negotiations that preceded the Truce that ended the war, the British
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 had demanded that Barry be handed over to them before progress could be made on other matters. Michael Collins
Michael Collins (Irish leader)
Michael "Mick" Collins was an Irish revolutionary leader, Minister for Finance and Teachta Dála for Cork South in the First Dáil of 1919, Director of Intelligence for the IRA, and member of the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations. Subsequently, he was both Chairman of the...

 refused, although he afterwards jokingly told his fellow Cork men that he had been sorely tempted. Barry opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty
Anglo-Irish Treaty
The Anglo-Irish Treaty , officially called the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, was a treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and representatives of the secessionist Irish Republic that concluded the Irish War of...

 of 6 December 1921, because, according to him, it betrayed the Irish Republic
Irish Republic
The Irish Republic was a revolutionary state that declared its independence from Great Britain in January 1919. It established a legislature , a government , a court system and a police force...

 and partitioned Ireland. He fought on the Republican
Irish Republican Army (1922–1969)
The original Irish Republican Army fought a guerrilla war against British rule in Ireland in the Irish War of Independence 1919–1921. Following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921, the IRA in the 26 counties that were to become the Irish Free State split between supporters and...

 side in the Irish Civil War
Irish Civil War
The Irish Civil War was a conflict that accompanied the establishment of the Irish Free State as an entity independent from the United Kingdom within the British Empire....

 (1922–1923) and was imprisoned by the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

 after the Battle of Dublin
Battle of Dublin
The Battle of Dublin, a week of street fighting in Dublin from 28 June to 5 July 1922, marked the beginning of the Irish Civil War. The fighting began with an assault by the Provisional Government of the proposed Irish Free State on the Four Courts building which had been occupied by a hard-line...

 in July 1922. Barry had voiced the opinion that, at the start of the Civil War, while the Republican side was stronger, they should have taken over Dublin and the major cities and forced a new confrontation with the British.

In September of that year, however, he escaped from an internment
Internment
Internment is the imprisonment or confinement of people, commonly in large groups, without trial. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the meaning as: "The action of 'interning'; confinement within the limits of a country or place." Most modern usage is about individuals, and there is a distinction...

 camp at Gormanston
Gormanston
Gormanstown could refer to:* Gormanston, Tasmania, town in Tasmania, Australia* Gormanston, County Meath, a village in County Meath, Republic of Ireland* Gormanston railway station, also in County Meath* Gormanston Aerodrome, County Meath...

 in north County Dublin and travelled south, to take command of the anti-Treaty IRA Second Southern Division. In November 1922, he led his men in the capture of a string of towns across the south midlands, including Carrick on Suir, Thomastown
Thomastown
-Landmarks:Kilfane Glen is a restored historic 1790s garden of romantic era with waterfall, woodland walks and cottage orne. The garden is listed as an Irish Heritage garden and was awarded assistance in 1993 by the European Union Cultural Commission...

 and Mullinavat
Mullinavat
Mullinavat is a town in south County Kilkenny, Ireland. Its main industries are tourism and agriculture. It has a renowned sporting history, particularly in hurling.-Location and access:...

, taking the Free State garrison there prisoner. However, due to a shortage of men and equipment, he was unable to hold these places, evacuating them before National Army reinforcements arrived. After this point, Barry increasingly argued with Liam Lynch, the Republican commander in chief, that the Civil War should be brought to an end, as there was no hope of victory. In March, Barry proposed to the IRA Army executive that a ceasefire should be called, but he was defeated by 6 votes to 5. The anti-treaty campaign was belatedly called off by Frank Aiken
Frank Aiken
Frank Aiken was a commander of the Irish Republican Army and later an Irish politician. A founding-member of Fianna Fáil, Aiken was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 1923 and at each subsequent election until 1973...

 in May, after Lynch had been killed in a skirmish with Free State troops. Barry was arrested shortly before Aiken's order to "dump arms", on 24 May 1923.

Subsequent IRA career


After the defeat of the Anti-Treaty IRA in the Civil War, Barry was released in 1924. He served as general superintendent of Cork Harbour
Cork Harbour
Cork Harbour is a natural harbour and river estuary at the mouth of the River Lee in County Cork, Ireland. It is one of several which lay claim to the title of "second largest natural harbour in the world by navigational area" . Other contenders include Halifax Harbour in Canada, and Poole Harbour...

 Commission from 1927 to 1965. In 1937, he succeeded Seán MacBride
Seán MacBride
Seán MacBride was an Irish government minister and prominent international politician as well as a Chief of Staff of the IRA....

 as chief of staff. Barry claimed that they had sabotaged a planned IRA offensive in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

. Barry would assert in later life that he opposed both the 1930s bombing campaign in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and IRA contacts with Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. In fact in January 1937 he had taken a trip to Germany seeking German support, which was assured to him subject to the condition that the IRA limit its actions to British military installations once war was declared. Financing was to be arranged through the Clann na Gael in the USA. The Army Convention in April 1938 adopted Seán Russell
Seán Russell
Seán Russell was an Irish republican who held senior positions in the IRA until the end of the Irish War of Independence...

s S-Plan instead. Barry resigned as chief of staff as a result, but remained in contact with German agents at least to February 1939.

In 1940, Barry was made responsible for Intelligence in the Irish Army
Irish Army
The Irish Army, officially named simply the Army is the main branch of the Defence Forces of Ireland. Approximately 8,500 men and women serve in the Irish Army, divided into three infantry Brigades...

's Southern Command, a position he held for the duration of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 (see The Emergency). In 1941 he was denounced by the IRA for writing for the Irish Army's journal
Magazine
Magazines, periodicals, glossies or serials are publications, generally published on a regular schedule, containing a variety of articles. They are generally financed by advertising, by a purchase price, by pre-paid magazine subscriptions, or all three...

. He was an unsuccessful candidate at the 1946 Cork Borough by-election. Barry was supportive of the Provisional IRA
Provisional Irish Republican Army
The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic within a united Ireland by force of arms and political persuasion...

 campaign but expressed reservations about some of their tactics.

Memoir



In 1949, Barry published his memoirs of the Irish War of Independence
Irish War of Independence
The Irish War of Independence , Anglo-Irish War, Black and Tan War, or Tan War was a guerrilla war mounted by the Irish Republican Army against the British government and its forces in Ireland. It began in January 1919, following the Irish Republic's declaration of independence. Both sides agreed...

, Guerilla Days in Ireland. It describes his Brigade's exploits such as the ambushes at Kilmichael and Crossbarry, as well as numerous other less known actions which were directed against the British Army, Black and Tans, the Auxiliary Division and the Royal Irish Constabulary. It became a classic account of the war and an influential guide on guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

. Barry took part in a fiftieth anniversary commemoration of Kilmcihael on 9th August, 1970, which was reported by Mary Leland in the Irish Times: "THE BOYS of Kilmichael were honoured in Co. Cork, yesterday, 50 years after the famous ambush in which the West Cork Flying Column wiped out a force of Black-and-Tans. General Tom Barry was the man who planned and led the ambush and yesterday he used the occasion to enunciate what he described as “certain principles of Republicanism.” To an audience of perhaps 1,000 people which included former members of the column who had taken part in the ambush as well as Messrs. Neil Blaney T.D., Kevin Boland, T.D., and Flor Crowley, T.D., he said that the first object of Republicanism was still the attainment of a Republic of the 32 Counties “despite any other implication or manoeuvring.” “There is now a heresy being propounded,” he said, “that the question of the unity of this country is a matter for the people of the Six Counties. This can never be accepted because the unity of this country is a matter for every man, woman and child within it.” That was the second principle. The third was that nobody had the right to abjure the right of Irishmen to drive from this country the armed occupying forces. “There has never been so much love-talk with British Imperialism as of late,” General Barry said. “Never so much sloppy talk and sloppy actions – particularly to the effect that Ireland can only be reunited by peaceful means. Do peaceful means obtain in the Six Counties?” General Barry drew the parallels of history: his theory of interior disunity being the fatal flaw in Irish defensive warfare was expressed again – that, and British imperialistic machinations. “These are facts of our own lifetime,” he said. “Are we going to go on in this disunity? Are we going to continue to see our Six Counties under the repression, the terror of Imperialism? Are we going to go on allowing this, or are we going to do our thinking for ourselves?” These words, and his gritty references to the men who died in their youth with guns in their hands, were greeted with cheers and applause. [. . .]

He described the plan of the engagement, how it happened, the long wait through the wet day among the rocks and heather. Then all over in 20 minutes. He took full responsibility for the fact that when the Auxiliaries called a second surrender (they had violated the first by opening fire again and killing two of his men) he refused to grant it.

“Keep firing,” I told them. “Keep firing until they stop.” Again the crowd cheered.

Eighteen members of the column were present, old men from . . . west Cork. Some had come from America; a wreath was laid on behalf of the old I.R.A. members in Boston, with the message: “We helped in the past and we will endeavour to help in the future”."

Death


He died in a Cork
Cork (city)
Cork is the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland and the island of Ireland's third most populous city. It is the principal city and administrative centre of County Cork and the largest city in the province of Munster. Cork has a population of 119,418, while the addition of the suburban...

 hospital in 1980 and was survived by his wife, Leslie de Barra (née Price), whom he married in 1921 and who was the director of organization for Cumann na mBan
Cumann na mBan
Cumann na mBan is an Irish republican women's paramilitary organisation formed in Dublin on 2 April 1914 as an auxiliary of the Irish Volunteers...

 and later President of the Irish Red Cross. She died in 1984.

Tom Barry in popular culture

  • Bobby Sands
    Bobby Sands
    Robert Gerard "Bobby" Sands was an Irish volunteer of the Provisional Irish Republican Army and member of the United Kingdom Parliament who died on hunger strike while imprisoned in HM Prison Maze....

     wrote a poem about Barry after his death, entitled Tom Barry. It was published posthumously in the collection Prison Poems.
  • In Ken Loach's film The Wind That Shakes the Barley
    The Wind That Shakes the Barley
    "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" is an Irish ballad written by Robert Dwyer Joyce , a Limerick-born poet and professor of English literature. The song is written from the perspective of a doomed young Wexford rebel who is about to sacrifice his relationship with his loved one and plunge into the...

    the character of Teddy is partly based on him, although Teddy fights on the other side in the Civil War.

See also

  • Kilmichael Ambush
    Kilmichael Ambush
    The Kilmichael Ambush was an ambush near the village of Kilmichael in County Cork on 28 November 1920 carried out by the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence. Thirty-six local IRA volunteers commanded by Tom Barry killed seventeen members of the RIC Auxiliary Division...

  • Crossbarry Ambush
    Crossbarry Ambush
    The Crossbarry Ambush occurred on 19 March 1921 and was one of the largest engagements of the Irish War of Independence. It took place at the rural crossroads of Crossbarry, County Cork, around 20 km south west of Cork city. About a hundred Irish Republican Army volunteers escaped an attempt...

  • Irish Republican Army
    Irish Republican Army
    The Irish Republican Army was an Irish republican revolutionary military organisation. It was descended from the Irish Volunteers, an organisation established on 25 November 1913 that staged the Easter Rising in April 1916...

  • Irish War of Independence
    Irish War of Independence
    The Irish War of Independence , Anglo-Irish War, Black and Tan War, or Tan War was a guerrilla war mounted by the Irish Republican Army against the British government and its forces in Ireland. It began in January 1919, following the Irish Republic's declaration of independence. Both sides agreed...

  • Tomas O'Canainn
    Tomas O'Canainn
    Tomás Ó Canainn is an Irish Uilleann piper, accordion player, singer, composer and writer. He was a founder of the group Na Fili with fiddler Matt Cranitch and whistle player Tom Barry in the late 1960s and 1970s...


Sources