ROINN COSANTA.

BUREAU OF MILITARY HISTORY, 1913-21.

STATEMENT BY WITNESS.

DOCUMENT NO. W.S. 1060

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

STATMENT BY MR. SEAMUS FINN, Athboy. Co. Meath.

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. The 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. The 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.