Witness: Seamus Finn, Athboy, Co. Meath

Adjutant, Meath Brigade, 1916-17, vice 0/C and Director of Training, 1st Eastern Division

Activities of Meath Brigade 1920-21, File No. S.2160. Form B.S.M.2


Local Government

Just then we were forced to give all our attention to another phase of activity, as the Local Government Elections were about to take place and the County Board of I.R.B. had received instructions that some members should be put forward as Sinn Féin candidates.  Meetings of all Circles were ordered to be held and likely men suggested to the county board.  We succeeded in doing this and also arranged that members of I.R.B. whose ages excused them from active Volunteer work would also be put forward.  The result of the election was decisive as our candidates were returned everywhere and when the Councils were called to their first meetings we had complete charge of them.  The first move was to pass resolutions refuting England's right in Ireland, withdrawing our connection with the British Local Government Board and acknowledging only the Local Government Department set up by Dáil Éireann.  This meant that the officials of the councils would now have to send all reports to Dáil Éireann and that no minutes of meetings or other correspondence must pass to the British body.

The local government scheme in Meath at that time consisted of three Urban and seven District Councils and Boards of Guardians and a County Council. While the elections for all bodies were held together there were separate voting papers for each body and we had county, urban and district councillors being voted in at the same booth and time.  The Chairman of each Urban and District Council became a member of the County Council by virtue of his position as such.  he decision to recognise only the jurisdiction of Dáil Éireann Local Government Department by all the Councils in Meath had far-reaching effects and affected every official and employee.  With one exception all of them threw in their lot with us, loyally obeyed our instructions and carried out our expressed wishes.  These entailed the lodgement of all funds, rates, etc. in secret accounts, refusing to send minutes to the British body and sending them to the department set up by Dáil Éireann.

Our first meetings showed our mind and our resolutions endorsing this action were unanimously passed, all Sinn Féin, Labour and other members concurring.  The attitude of one of the senior officials of the County Council quickly brought about a crisis as he refused to sever with the British and maintained his right to send minutes of meetings, lodge monies and accept instructions from that body.  At our second meeting he continued his opposition, so we formally passed a resolution dismissing him.  Still he continued to act and refused to accept our dismissal.  On the occasion of our third meeting we found when we arrived at the County Hall that the British Military and police were in occupation of the building.  he members who were Volunteers, and for whom warrants of arrest were out, abstained from attending but the others entered the Hall and the Chairman, Mr. Martin O'Dwyer, on taking the chair demanded the reason of the presence of the police and military.  On being told by the officer commanding that their attendance was to enforce an order to get an assurance that the council would carry out their duty according to British instructions, or prevent any meeting being held, Mr. O'Dwyer replied forcefully that the council refused to be intimidated and he vacated the chair and called on the other members to follow him from the building.  This was the beginning of a battle of wits that was fought all through the years 1920-21 until the Truce in July 1921.  As our meetings could not now be held in the County Hall, and were proscribed by British Martial Law, other meeting places and means of carrying on our duties had to be considered.  We were a council "on the run" and acted as such for some time. Meetings were held, among other places, in Martin O'Dwyer's, Clonee, and Pat Kane's, Bohermeen, until we were eventually fixed up in the South Dublin Union, James's St., Dublin through the assistance of Liam Cosgrave, who was Minister of Local Government in Dáil Éireann.

Our call to the rate collectors to lodge all monies on hands and being collected by them only as directed by us met with a good response, but all monies to the council credit in banks was frozen by order of the British and we found ourselves trying to keep staffs employed while waiting for funds to come in.  We withdrew all the loyal members of the staff and offices were got for us by the Department in Cavendish House, Parnell Square, where all the work of the council was done under the direction of our acting secretary - Barney Grogan - assisted by Con Corcoran. We left Mr. Pat Weldon at the County Hall to keep us informed of the position there.  In the meantime the former County Secretary carried on under the direction and protection of the British but, as no meetings were held there nor any of the officials, including the rate collectors reported to him, his duties were light.  We received loyal messages of support from all our rate collectors and our roadmen, the gangers particularly guaranteeing to carry on and do any necessary work until some arrangements were made to pay them.  The council got over their immediate financial strain by the very patriotic action of the more prominent members who, having been put in touch with a branch manager of an Irish Bank by a friend of Liam Cosgrave - Mr. Burke, James's St., agreed to act as security for the required sum and with the funds made available by this banker the immediate needs were met.

Click below for photograph of Con Corcoran and Pat Weldon.

Meath County Council

These men were Messrs. Pat Kane, Martin O'Dwyer, Pat O'Growney and Seán O'Farrell. There may have been others but I only know of these.  In the meantime the subsidiary councils - Urban and Rural District Councils and Boards of Guardians - followed the lead and only gave allegiance to Dáil Éireann.  In all this campaign we were strongly supported by Labour and other members of these Boards and in only one instance did a council - Navan Urban Council turn tail and re-affirm its allegiance to the British Local Government Board.  All the other bodies and officials carried on under great strain and their courage in doing so deserves the highest praise.  The officials of these bodies came in for a good deal of unwelcome attention in the form of raids and abuse from the police and military but they refused to be shaken and right loyally they carried on to the end of the struggle.  This phase of the struggle threw much more work on the shoulders of the Volunteers as all notices calling meetings were handled by them and delivered to the Council members, while the holding of County Council meetings in a company area entailed supplying guards and cycling patrols to ensure that the councillors would not be surprised by the enemy, who were zealously seeking out such meeting places.  That they failed to discover even one or succeeded in causing much disorganisation was due to the loyal services rendered by the officials, discretion of the members, and also to the efficient manner in which the Volunteers of Meath covered this branch of the national activities.

List of the members of the Republican County Council who were "on the run" as a Council and held their meetings regularly although much sought by enemy forces:

Martin O'Dwyer, Chairman, Clonee, Dunboyne.

Patrick Kane, Bohermeen, Navan.

Patrick O'Growney, Athboy.

Patrick Hopkins, Kells.

Seán Brennan, Kells, Chairman Kells Rural District Council.

Seán English, Kells, Chairman Kells Urban Council.

James McDonnell, Seymourstown, Crossakiel.

Thomas Clinton, Moynalty, Kells.

Michael Peppard, Clonard.

Bartle Fitzsimons, Tara, Chairman Dunshaughlin Rural District Council.

Seamus Finn, Athboy, Chairman Trim Rural District Council.

Patrick Proctor, Trim Urban Council.

James Kelly, Chairman Navan Rural District Council.

Michael Markey, Chairman St. Mary's Rural District Council, Drogheda

James Langan, Bellewstown.

J. McCabe, Chairman Oldcastle Rural District Council.

Seán Boylan, Dunboyne.

Seán O'Farrell, National Teacher, Julianstown.

Patrick Moore, Dunboyne.

Patrick Joseph Clinch

Patrick Joseph Clinch, later to be Meath County Council Cathaoirleach, was in the GPO during the Rising and was injured in the chest and arm. Born in Crossmaglen, County Armagh in 1889 Clinch joined the Irish Volunteers in Liverpool and in early 1916 travelled with a group of Volunteers via ferry to the North Wall and then went to Larkfield House where they became known as the Kimmage Garrison.

Clinch serving under Frank Thornton, was stationed at the AOH, American Alliance Hall, North Frederick Street. This group reported to Liberty Hall on Easter Monday morning and was divided up with Clinch dispatched to the GPO. He was sent, under the command of Captain Craig, with a small party to hold an outpost at Annesley Bridge, Fairview early on Monday morning and held that position until its evacuation on Wednesday when he returned to the GPO. Clinch was wounded in Moore Street during the evacuation of the GPO. Hit in the breast and upper arm he and a number of other wounded retired to a disused stable where there was a First Aid post.  The wounded men and about ten others were in the charge of Seán McEntee and occupied the stable during Friday night and Saturday morning.

After surrendering in O’Connell Street Clinch was brought to Richmond Barracks and was then interned in Frongoch until December 1916. Following his release he became involved in organisational work with the Irish Volunteers in Louth and Meath. He moved to Navan where he opened a shop. He said he was on active service with the Navan Company from January 1919. He took part in the attack on Lismullen (Dillonsbridge) RIC barracks in November 1919. His main role was in training, intelligence and organisation. Clinch took an active part in the Republican Courts and local politics. Wounded during his police activities he spent four weeks in St. Vincent’s Hospital for a bullet extraction. He was Chairman of the North Meath Republican Courts and was involved in the investigation of the murder of Mark Clinton. His stationery and tobacconist shop in Navan was raided on a number of occasions by British forces. A bomb was thrown though the front plate glass window. He eventually had to close the business. Captured in March 1920 he was imprisoned in Mountjoy where he went on hunger strike for sixteen days. On his release he spent fourteen days in the Mater Hospital.

Following the 1920 local elections Clinch was elected as Chairman of Meath County Council. It recognised the Dáil and had to have its meetings on the run to stop disruption by the British forces. In February 1921 attempts were made to remove the County Secretary, John Grennan, who was loyal to the British administration and would not carry out the rulings of the Sinn Féin dominated council. In 1921 Clinch went on the run from British forces. After the Truce he opened a shop in Thomas Street, Dublin but this ran into financial difficulties.

In December 1921, as Chairman, Clinch advocated the ratification of the proposed Treaty. His attendance at Council meetings was sporadic as he was on the run. He took the Anti-Treaty side in the Civil War but appears to have not taken an active part, but in May 1922 he did provide a safe house for Patrick Keating and Tom Clarke of Navan who had escaped from Dundalk Barracks and were on the run. In 1923 he joined the Garda Síochána and rose to the rank of Superintendent but resigned in 1924 and later re-joined as a sergeant. He retired from his position in 1944 and in his later life lived at Sutton, Dublin. Clinch died in 1978 aged nearly 90.

Noel French,