Westmeath Society Unveil New Memorial To IRA Volunteer Joe Leavy

A 1916 Societies report on last month's commemoration in Enniscoffey for IRA Volunteer Joe Leavy.

On Sunday 27th September, the Spirit Of Irish Freedom Society Westmeath held the unveiling of a new memorial to IRA Volunteer Joe Leavy, in Enniscoffey Graveyard between Gainstown and Milltownpass. Joe Leavy, a native of Belfield, Gainstown, was shot dead in Dominick Street, Mullingar on 27th April 1922. The memorial has been erected by the Society in Enniscoffey.

Prior to the ceremony, about eighty people gathered at Corran Crossroads and then paraded the four hundred yards or so back to the graveyard, led by a flag-bearing Colour Party from the 1916 Societies. The ceremony was chaired by Alan McCabe from Castlepollard, a member of North Westmeath’s Dermody/Leavy Cumann of the Society.

Firstly, there was a minute’s silence for Declan O’Connor from Rathowen, who died on 28th August last. Declan laid a wreath to Joe Leavy at our Easter Commemoration earlier this year. Proceedings then began with the new memorial, draped with the flag of the Four Provinces, being unveiled by veteran of the IRA’s 1956/62 Border Campaign, Killkenny man Richard Behal.

The 1916 Proclamation was then read by Laura Kelly, Mullingar. There then was a reading of the Westmeath IRA Roll of Honour by Ken Connolly, Castletowngeoghegan and member of the Sloane/Tormey Cumann, South Westmeath. A full history of the circumstances surrounding the death of Vol. Joe Leavy on 27th April 1922 in Mullingar was given by Peter Rogers, Rathowen of the Dermody/Leavy Cumann (an edited version is attached below):

Company Adjutant, Joe Leavy IRA was killed in Dominic Street, Mullingar on 27th April 1922, aged just 36 years.

Things were very tense in Mullingar that day, following the shooting dead earlier that morning of a member of the National Army, Patrick Collumb from Longford, in a gun battle with Republicans in Mary Street. A train load of reinforcements were drafted into the town from Portobello Barracks in Dublin, to help quell the fighting and find those responsible.

Joe Leavy and thirteen other Republicans had just moved a truck load of bedding from the County Building to the RIC Station across from the Cathedral. On their return journey at 11.20am they were stopped by a party of about fifty Free State troops, also in Mary Street.

One of the IRA men and driver of the truck, a young man named McMunn, jumped out of the truck and escaped back into the RIC Station, even though he was wounded by shots fired at him by the Free State troops.

The others were all then surrounded, disarmed and taken prisoner. They were then marched down Mary Street with their hands over their heads and out into Dominick Street, where other Free State forces opened fire on them from a position in front of the Post Office with rifles and machine guns. Joe Leavy was shot dead and a number of others were wounded in the gunfire.

Joe Leavy’s funeral was held on Saturday, 29th April 1922. A large crowd attended. Business premises in both Mullingar and Milltownpass closed down as the funeral passed. His IRA comrades fired a volley of shots over his grave in Enniscoffey as a final salute to their comrade and patriot of Ireland.

James Linnane from Ballivor then read a poem he wrote about Joe Leavy called, ‘The Flame’. There then was a rendition of the ‘Foggy Dew’ by James Connolly, Castletowngeoghegan on the tin-whistle. The Wreath-Laying Ceremony followed, with Christy Scally, a nephew of Joe Leavy, laying a wreath on behalf of the family, followed by Peter McCormack on behalf of Sloane/Tormey Cumann, South Westmeath. Bernard Flood then laid a wreath on behalf of Dermody/Leavy Cumann, North Westmeath.

The main oration was given by Kilkenny man Richard Behal, an IRA veteran and former Director of International Affairs for the Republican Movement for Europe and North Africa. Richard is widely known for his dramatic escape from Limerick Prision in 1966. He now describes himself as a non-aligned Republican.

In his oration Mr. Behal said:

men like Volunteer Joe Leavy, who stayed loyal to the Irish Republic, are a credit to their families and to the Republican cause for which they died. As we approach the Centenary of the 1916 Rising we must raise awareness among our young people of the sacrifice and the reason why these brave men and women died. They died defending the All-Ireland Republic proclaimed by the men of 1916 and ratified in the Mansion House on 21st January by the First Dáil Éireann.

These men and women of the First Dáil Éireann received their authority from the Republican victory in the General Election of November 1918. The true Republic was then crushed within five years by pro-Treaty forces, in a counter-revolution following the signing of the Treaty with the British Government in 1921, by a delegation in London who had no authority to do so. This Treaty then partitioned our country and set up Saorstát Éireann and a Parliament in Leinster House for a new 26-County Free State. Through force of arms the continuity with the All-Ireland Republic, proclaimed on Easter Monday 1916 and ratified by the First Dáil Éireann, was ended in this counter-revolution.

He went on to say:

men like Thomas Kent, a man who fought in 1916 and lost his life defending the Republic and who was recently reinterred in Cork by the present Leinster House government, would turn in his grave if he could see how the Irish people’s natural resources have been given away by politicians to large multi-national corporations with very little benefit to the Irish people. The Irish people must reassert their sovereign right of authority over not only our natural resources but the freedom of our whole country as well.

He concluded:

the men of 1916 believed that sovereign authority rests with the Irish people alone. It does not belong to treasonable politicians, who have colluded with a foreign government and rich and powerful corporations to swindle the Irish people out of what is rightfully ours. We must all strive to restore the All-Ireland Republic and the people’s authority over our country, so our future generations can live in peace and prosperity.

Gerry Farrell of the Sloane/Tormey Cumann then presented Richard Behal with a copy of Maurice Walsh’s book, ‘Bitter Freedom’: Ireland in a Revolutionary World 1918-1923. The ceremony itself came to a close with Alan McCabe thanking all who attended and those who supported the erecting of the memorial in any way. It concluded with the playing of Amhrán na bhFiann by Maggie-Rose Connolly, Castletowngeoghegan.

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