Kevin Barry - Fought For Irish Liberty and Hanged At Eighteen By English Crown
Kevin Barry is a patriotic famous son of Ireland who paid the ultimate sacrifice with his life at a time in Irish political life, when the country was at war with England, but also on the brink of freedom.
The ideal unification sought by eighteen year old Kevin Barry and many more thousands of Irish people, who laid down their lives over eight hundred years, did not materialise. However the tragedy of Kevin Barry’s execution is a singular incident in Irish history that will never be erased.
“In Mountjoy Jail one Monday morning high upon the gallows tree, Kevin Barry gave his young life for the cause of liberty”.
A famous song entitled ‘Kevin Barry’ celebrates the bravery and dignity of this historic Irish patriot. The conviction and sentencing to death by hanging of the famous Irish teenager, Kevin Barry, in 1920, brought international pleas of mercy to the British government, but those petitions went unheard.
The Irish youth lived in an era when Ireland was on the brink of gaining independence from England after 800 years of corruption and persecution.
Kevin was a Dublin student studying medicine at University College Dublin. In 1918, just like so many more thousands of young Irish people, he joined The Irish Volunteers to fight for Ireland’s freedom. His superiors recognised his intellectual pedigree and soon he became a Section Command.
On that fateful day of the 20th September 1920 he took part in an ambush just before noon and that same afternoon he was about to complete his final medical examination.
The ambush in Dublin city resulted in the death of a British soldier as his comrades made good their escape,
Kevin Barry crawled under a truck in hiding, but alas, in an innocent twist of fate, he was captured. Eighteen year old Kevin also had his afternoon medical examination on his mind at this time, but he was now about to face much more serious questions to save his own life.
At the R.I.C. police barracks the officers charged with interrogating Kevin believed such a young and intellectual Irish boy would succumb to their grueling inquisitions. No progress was made with the interrogation and he was then placed in Mountjoy Prison to await more intensive inquisitions. He was tortured repeatedly to name his comrades and bribed with his freedom, but brave Kevin Barry rejected such a notion.
At his trial he informed the presiding judge that as an Irish soldier fighting for his country, he regarded his combat as an act of war. He did not recognise a foreign court officiating in his native land, and during court proceedings, he immersed himself in reading a newspaper.
This contempt was noted by the prosecution. The British were unable to secure a hangman in Ireland due to the universal criticism of their regime and on November 1st 1920 an English based hangman was brought to Dublin to carry out the cruel deed.
Kevin Barry’s final words before his execution were directed to his comrades.
‘Hold on and stick to the Republic’