IN JANUARY 1923 four men were executed in the grounds of Roscrea Castle by the Free State Army, an act of violence which still reverberates in the town almost 100 years later and that has caused some controversy in recent times regarding its commemoration.
The site where the four men were executed on the morning of January 15th 1923 has become the focus of a debate in the last decade, because the small area which is concealed within the Castle complex has been closed off to public access.
Not only has the site been inaccessible, it has also been used a storage yard for Council machinery and equipment and is bereft of any monument or plaque acknowledging its local and historical significance.
However, after being the subject of a protracted debate, about both the lack of acknowledgement of the shootings and why the site cannot be accessed for commemorative ceremonies, it now appears there has been some movement.
The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht have responsibility for Roscrea Castle, with the Office of Public Works (OPW) being responsible for managing the site on a day-to-day basis, have announced plans to cease its usage as an “operational area” and to “ultimately reopen it for public access.”
The Department says this will ensure there can be a “more appropriate treatment of the space” and they say they plan to consult with the families of the four men executed in Roscrea and other local interests about how this could be best accomplished.
In relation to holding future commemorative ceremonies at the site, the Department said that decision can only be taken by the OPW. The Department pointed out that anyone interested in hosting such an event needs to first draft a proposal outlining the nature of what is envisaged and nominate a representative from the community to be a single point of contact locally to represent all local interests and views.
Speaking to the Tribune, Sinn Fein local election hopeful, Michael Donovan, said Liadh Ní Riadh MEP had received the confirmation from the Department and he described as “shameful” the lack of acknowledgement for Roscrea’s local history – which he said is denied from the town’s schoolchildren and visitors to the town.
“We kept the pressure on them and finally there seems to be some good news on the issue. The true story and history of Roscrea is not the one that is told to our schoolchildren and people who visit the Castle,” Mr. Donovan said.
The full story of the the execution and the surrounding events are excellently recorded on the Roscrea Through the Ages website, which recalls how the four men were executed as the Church bell tolled for eight o’clock mass and the shots rang out around the town.
The story of the execution of Patrick McNamara, Patrick Russell, Fred Bourke and Martin O’Shea is available for everyone to explore on Joe Coughlan’s very informative local history website, which also features several interesting pictures relevant to the story.