I’ve always been intrigued by the legend or story that one of my ancestors was killed fighting for Irish independence. In fact, in one of my earlier posts Mary C. O’Rourke Stupfel says on videotape that two of her cousins and childhood playmates in Ireland, the Quinn boys, were later involved in the Irish insurrection. One of the boys was killed, according to the story. The other was injured and later recovered.
This was the second time I’ve heard this story in my family. In my earlier post on the video, Mary C. says the cousins’ names were John and Patrick Quinn. Each time I watched the video, I wanted to learn more about this story and find out just who the Quinn boys were and what their involvement was in the quest for Irish independence.
When I initially heard the story, I assumed she was talking about the Easter Rising in 1916. The Easter Rising was an armed insurrection in Ireland during Easter Week, April 1916 and it occurred in Dublin. Irish republicans launched the conflict to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in the First World War. It lasted for six days and the British eventually suppressed the insurrection. Some 485 people were killed including IRA members, British military and civilians.1
The event was significant because soon after, the British executed 15 lRA leaders, in essence turning public opinion against the British and paving the way toward Irish independence.2
John Quinn was not killed in the Easter Rising, nor was he killed in the Irish War for Independence that occurred between 1919 and 1921. John Quinn, later known as Sean Quinn, was killed in the lesser known Irish Civil War in 1923. His brother Patrick, known as Padraig, was captured in the same conflict, but survived and was later released.
The Irish Civil War
The Civil War broke out between opposing factions of the IRA after the treaty with Britain was signed establishing the Irish Free State. The treaty was rather contentious, but the majority of the IRA, including Michael Collins, supported it. The other faction, anti-treaty IRA members, believed the treaty with Britain didn’t go far enough toward Irish independence.3
Sean Quinn was a high ranking officer in the Fourth Northern Division of the Irish Republican Army and staunchly anti-treaty. He was ultimately killed by his own countrymen, Irish Free State troops.