Sean O’C Riada of Castleisland, ‘Mother of Sinn Fein’

The first Sinn Fein Club in East Kerry was organised in the early twentieth century by James E O’Connor, Daniel O’Mahony and Sean O’C Riada, serving the roles of chairman, treasurer and secretary respectively.[1]


It was called, contemptuously, The Tailors’ Club ‘as so many of that art were involved’:


The first in Castleisland was looked on by the people of the town and country as run by ‘amiable fanatics, or lunatics’ or denounced as disturbers of the Irish Nationalist peace.[2]


Its object was to ‘free Ireland from English rule, ideas, and language.’  Sean O’C Riada, the longest surviving of the trio, studied the Irish language to such a degree that he became the spokesperson for the new movement.  He was ‘the heart and soul of all the demonstrations and displays that were got up in Castleisland for the purpose of advancing the national cause’:


The great demonstration and procession to Dysart on an anniversary of the execution of Allen, Larkin and O’Brien was an inspiring spectacle – Sean himself delivering the oration in praise of the martyrs … Arthur Griffith thought so much of Sean O’C Riada that he offered him a good position in Dublin, but Sean’s disinterestedness was such that he refused.[3]


James E O’Connor died in 1911, his death attributed in part to his involvement in the organisation.[4]


Sean O’C Riada went to America shortly before the 1914-18 war and returned to Ireland in 1921.  He joined the Battalion Staff of the 7th Battalion in East Kerry and was active during the later stages of the War of Independence.  He took the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War and returned to America in 1926.


During the years 1924 and 1925, he took part in many political events and commemorative ceremonies in the county.  In May 1924 he numbered among those who addressed a Republican gathering in Castleisland from the balcony of the Crown Hotel:


Proceeding from Harnett’s corner the crowds forming a dense mass assembled outside Mr Sam Knight’s hotel where a public meeting was addressed from the balcony.  Mr Maurice Keane, RDC, presided and on the platform were Messrs T T O’Connor, Cordal; Sean O’Raida, Castleisland; John D Quill, Kilgarvan; James O’Leary, Scartaglen; Cornelius Daly, Knockane; J Carey, S Ua Murchadha, D O’Shea, Killarney; T McEllistrum TD; Con Murphy, Currans; J O’Hanlon, D J Flavin, Listowel; D J O’Connor, Mrs Murphy Castleisland; Mrs Murphy Knocknagoshel; Mr Jerh D Long RDC; Mr Jerh O’Connell, Castleisland.[5]


In the same month, he addressed a Sinn Fein meeting at Currow after a football match where he was listened to ‘with attention and approval by a large gathering.’[6]


He was scheduled to speak at a meeting in July 1924 to mark the anniversary of the murder of Danny Scanlan who was shot by the RIC on 11 July 1917, the night of the election of President De Valera as TD for East Clare, and in early August, he was among those on the platform in Tralee for the homecoming of Austin Stack.


The following month he was present at the Republican gathering in Kenmare for the second anniversary of the death of Volunteer Con Looney at the battle of Killorglin and also in memory of Lieutenant Denis Tuohy of Gortalassa, murdered by the Black and Tans at Kenmare.  Also in September, he spoke at the unveiling ceremony of a Celtic Cross erected at Mountain Stage, Glenbeigh, in memory of Frank O’Grady who was killed while a prisoner in 1922.[7]


In October, he addressed the Annablaha Aeridheacht and appealed to those present to support the advancement of the national language.  He also appealed for support for the proposed Sinn Fein daily paper.  In the same month, he was appointed to the committee of a new branch of the Gaelic League in Castleisland.


In November 1924, the funeral took place at St John’s Church Tralee of John Clifford, Mountluke, Cahirciveen, who was executed in Tralee Jail.  After the burial in Killovarnoge graveyard he preached an oration in Irish about the ‘priceless services Sean Clifford had rendered to the cause of Irish Freedom.’[8]


He addressed the National Festival in Killarney on St Patrick’s Day 1925 to honour the memory of the dead men ‘who died for Ireland in the battlefield or the prison or by other means.’ During this meeting, someone in the crowd asked, ‘What about the death of ‘Scarteen’?’[9]  This alluded to the deaths of brothers Tom and John O’Connor-Scarteen who were shot dead at the family bakery in Kenmare on 9 September 1922 five months after hearing Collins speak about the Treaty.[10]


In July 1925, Riada performed the unveiling ceremony of a cross at Kilflynn cemetery to commemorate Captain George O’Shea and Volunteer Timothy Tuomey, killed in the explosion at Ballyseedy, and Commandant Timothy Lyons (Aero) who was killed at Clashmealcon Caves.

The following month he addressed the crowd in Denny Street, Tralee on the occasion of Eamon de Valera’s visit.  O’Riada was described as ‘almost Pearse-like in his stark stern sincerity’:


He read a Castleisland address which was to have been presented to Eamon de Valera in 1922, an address signed by Jeremiah O’Leary, since murdered at Hartnett’s Post, and by Patrick Buckley, murdered at Ballyseedy.  No word is changed of those sentiments sealed with blood.[11]


Riada returned to New York in May 1926, as stated in an open letter about his promotion of the Irish cause in America:


Since my return from Ireland in May 1926, I have done my best to get Irish people in this city – and country – as far as it was possible for me, to renew their support of Dail Eireann, and to help unite those organisations in Ireland, which until recently, though not now, stood for the established Republic of Ireland.[12]


Soon after Riada’s return to America, his brother, Stephen Reidy, passed away.  A notice of this death by Castleisland correspondent, ‘Specs,’ with passing reference to the Reidy family, ignited a hostile war of words by a reader of the local press, which was ultimately dismissed by ‘Specs’ as ‘a fandango of half-truths.’[13]


In 1927, Riada was among the one thousand or so guests at the annual banquet of the Kerrymen’s Patriotic and Benevolent (P & B) Association in New York.[14]  A little of Riada’s life in America was learned from a notice in a Kerry newspaper in 1928, the same year in which he contributed to the fund for the rebuilding of the Prior churches in Iveragh:


We note with pleasure an advertisement, partly Gaelic, partly Bearla, in the Advocate showing that Sean O’C Riada is in the merchant tailoring business at 73 Clarkson St, NY City.  He is a member of the Kerrymen’s Society and takes an active part in every movement leading to the spiritual and national awakening of Erin.  He is deeply interested also in matters affecting her industries and material progress.  Here is a chance for our exiles to support a good Irishman and we wish Brother O’C Riada the greatest of success – he deserves it.[15]


In 1929, committees – working under the direction of Sean O’Raida – were formed in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, to help fund the Celtic Cross at the Republican plot in Kilbannivane, unveiled in October 1929.


Daniel O’Mahony, Riada’s comrade, died in 1934:


By the death of Mr Daniel O’Mahony of Castleisland, Ireland has lost one of its bravest sons … During his boyhood as a Moonlighter and Land Leaguer, and in his prime as a Sinn Feiner and Republican, all his thoughts and endeavours were given to the freedom of his country.  The wonder is how, with only a National School education, he had such a very capable and fertile mind.  He proved himself always broad-minded, wise in council, entirely unselfish and very resolute in putting his ideas into action … He never married; he gave all his devotion to ‘Dark Rosaleen,’ and it may be said with truth that that symbolic young lady never had a truer and more faithful lover.[16]


John Roche, Chairman of Castleisland District Heritage, and Tomo Burke, former Treasurer of the project stand beside the grave of O’Riada.  Illustrations of O’Riada (left) and O’Mahony (right) from O’Donovan’s Popular History of East Kerry


In the years that followed, Sean O Riada returned to Ireland at intervals.  He made a special journey in 1955 to be present at the unveiling of the Ballyseedy Memorial.  In 1956, he erected a monument in Kilbannivane cemetery in memory of his three brothers:


Thy Will Be Done 

In Loving Memory of

Dómhnall, Séamus and Diarmuid Ó Riada

Lord, have mercy on them and give rest and peace to them in the glorious Heaven of the saints!

Holy Mary, beloved of God, 

Pray for them and show them the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Their brother Seán erected this monument in the year 1956[17]


His own death, which occurred in New York on St Patrick’s Day, 1967, was subsequently added to the memorial.[18]  He was aged 85, and unmarried.  A number of obituaries were published in Ireland and America:


After a long life of unswerving loyalty to Ireland, the last wish of a great Kerryman and a great Irishman was fulfilled on Thursday March 23 when a Fianna Eireann bugler sounded the Last Post and the Reveille in a quiet corner of Kilbannivane graveyard not far from his comrades who had fallen in the War of Independence.  Sean O’C Riada was called appropriately to his eternal reward on St Patrick’s Day in New York and by his long expressed wish his remains were flown to Ireland for burial with his own in the soil for which he would cheerfully have given his life.  His remains arrived in Shannon on Wednesday morning and were received by a gathering of old friends who conveyed them that evening to Castleisland parish church from where, after Solemn Requiem Mass on Thursday morning, the funeral took place to Kilbannivane.  Mr Kevin Barry, UDC, Tralee, was in charge of the Guard of Honour and there was a large attendance of the general public for the deceased was much admired for his long and unselfish devotion to the cause of Irish Freedom.[19]


There is little information about Riada’s parentage and roots.[20]  There is a suggestion that his family hailed from Glanlarehan (Glenlarin, Glenlarhern), where there is found a small, now ruined cottage in the foreground of the former family residence of poet, M J (Moss Tommy) Reidy.[21]


If anyone can help identify his birthplace, we would be delighted to hear from you.


[1] ‘Some time in 1905 there was a Sinn Fein gathering in Catleisland – it is said that the promoter was Sean O’Riada.  Only a few understood the policy enunciated, the great majority of the people thought it a movement for the support of Irish manufacture.  Father Arthur Murphy went from Brosna, accompanied by Denis and Maurice Hartnett, Phil O’Connor and others.  He made a striking speech unfolding a vision of Ireland saving her own soul without foreign aid, not alone in home industries, but politically as well.  When ere again you go spinning/Let all of your spindles be steel;/Paint liberty then on your banner/And glory will turn its wheel’ (The Liberator, 20 May 1930).

[2] ‘Sinn Fein in East Kerry,’ The Liberator Tralee, 25 November 1930.

[3] ‘The Irish Revolution,’ A Popular History of East Kerry (1931) by T M Donovan.  ‘He thought if he accepted a position in Dublin that the usual envious criticism would be made.  ‘Ah,’ the scandal mongers would say, ‘we told you so; Sean was all the time after a billet.’  Had he gone to Dublin his talents and his national spirit would have carried him far, and, perhaps, today he would be reckoned among the leaders of 1916.  Later on, he went to America, where he has always done good work for Ireland among his fellow-countrymen in the United States.’

[4] ‘James E O’Connor, their chairman, really lost his life by his regular attendance at the Gaelic classes during the severe winter weather’ (‘Sinn Fein in East Kerry,’ The Liberator Tralee, 25 November 1930).  James E O’Connor seems to have hailed from Scartaglin.  He died in 1911: ‘We regret to learn of the death of Mr Seumas O’Connor, Rural District Council, of Castleisland, formerly President of the local Sinn Fein Branch.  Mr O’Connor’s death is a loss in every way to Castleisland. His funeral took place on Tuesday to Kilbavin [Kilbannivane] graveyard.  Beannacht De ar a anam – Sinn Fein’ (Kerry News, 21 August 1911). 

Twenty years on, the surviving two were described by Castleisland’s historian, T M Donovan, as successors of the nationalist movement: ‘If Sinn Fein and the IRB were the grandparents, Dan O’Mahony was the father and Sean O’Reidy was the mother of nationalism in East Kerry for the last twenty-five years’ (‘Sinn Fein in East Kerry,’ The Liberator Tralee, 25 November 1930).  O’Donovan wrote: ‘It was Griffith’s Sinn Fein principles that led to the revolutionary action that in the years between 1916 and 1921, lifted our country out of centuries of bondage. If Griffith was the evangelist of the Irish Revolution, it was Padraig Pearse and his gallant comrades of 1916 that set free the soul of Ireland by the sacrifice of their blood … Where Pearse, Clarke, McDonogh, McDermott, McBride, Connolly, Kent, Plunkett and their comrades planted this freedom in 1916, Michael Collins, Cathal Brugha and their companions reaped the harvest in 1921.  In 1916 hardly 20 per cent of the people were for war with England; in 1919 the position was reversed – 80 per cent of the people were in full accord with the aims of the Irish Republican Army.  The principles of Sinn Fein had won through.  Batt O’Connor, the right hand man of Michael Collins in Dublin, when he was sent down to his native village of Brosna in 1916 found only two good men on whom he could rely and, outside the Volunteers, the same might be said of many other places in Kerry.  There were scores of sworn-in Volunteers ready to shoulder the gun in the chief towns of the county but the general mass of the people were hostile.  Many persons who were in 1916 entirely opposed to the Revolutionary movement fostered by the Irish Republican Brothers afterwards became stout supporters of the Irish Republican Army in 1919.  One of our most distinguished East Kerrymen, Mr Batt O’Connor, in his book, With Michael Collins, writes, ‘Nearly all the people in the village were hostile.  They spoke bitterly of the leaders in Dublin as rebels and pro-Germans and said they were ruining the country.’  With the exception of the Sinn Feiners and Volunteers, the great bulk of the people in town and country were hostile to the insurrectionary rising … To sum up in a few words: if Sinn Fein and the IRB were the grandparents, Dan O’Mahony was the father and Sean O’Reidy was the mother of Nationalism in East Kerry for the last twenty-five years.  For the benefit of future ages it is only right and just to place on record the names of those pioneers of the movement who founded the first Sinn Fein Club in East Kerry.  Early in the present century [20th] Sean O’Reidy, Dan O’Mahony and James E O’Connor organised this club with the latter (RIP) a true Gael, as Chairman, Dan as treasurer and Sean O as secretary.’

[5] ‘Gigantic Demonstration. Republican Celebration at Castleisland. Graves Honoured.   Tablet Unveiled. Public Meeting,’ Kerry News, 30 May 1924. ‘The Chairman extended to every one of that large concourse of people in the name of the Republic a warm welcome to Castleisland and said that the stirring scenes they had witnessed that day would live long in their memories.  The following was the resolution which would be put to the meeting for adoption: Resolved – That this assemblage of the people of Castleisland and surrounding districts record our sorrow for the deaths of the men of the 7th Battalion of Kerry 1st Brigade but we are proud that our district gave so many devoted martyrs to the cause of Ireland’s Freedom.  We pledge ourselves to maintain the principles for which our martyrs died and to work in the future as they did in the past for an Irish Republic which is the only solution to Ireland’s National claims.’

[6] Kerry Reporter, 24 May 1924.

[7] Kerry News, 24 September 1924.

[8] Kerry Reporter, 1 November 1924.

[9] Kerry News, 18 March 1925.  The speaker, John J Rice, replied: ‘Scarteen died fighting.  He was schooled as a soldier in the Irish Republican Army.  He died as a soldier because of that, but, being young, he was misled into joining the Free State Army and was let down by that Army as a result of his services.  It was well that Killarney and Kerry should know the truth about Scarteen’s death.  He did not desire to discuss this matter further.’ 

[10] Scarteen Park, Kenmare was named in memory of the men, as testified by a plaque near the road sign: ‘This group of houses has been named as the Scarteen Memorial Park to the memory of the O’Connor Scarteen brothers Tom and John who lost their lives in the fight for Irish freedom.’

[11] Kerry News, 17 August 1925.

[12] Kerry Champion, 7 October 1933.

[13] Further reference to ‘Specs’ in: ‘Specs on! A Close Look at The Kerryman Calendar of 1934’

The following obituary ignited the correspondence (which follows): ‘Solemn Requiem High Mass was celebrated on Monday week by Rev Father O’Sullivan for Mr Stephen Reidy, who died in California.  The deceased exile belonged to a Castleisland family well known for its long adherence to our best national ideals.  His brothers, Jeremiah and James Reidy, and Sean – now himself an exile in the ‘Land of the Free’ – were intimately associated with every development of the national movement.  Many will recall Sean’s activities in the pioneer days of Sinn Fein, when he with a couple of other Trojans essayed in vain to cleanse the Augean stables of public administration, to purify our system of local government and establish our national economics upon a basis of right thinking and how at the earliest opportunity, they were discarded by the happy-go-lucky electors in favour of the good old jobbers.  A fit and gallant soldier, he carried his rifle through the brunt of the recent campaigns, and when all was over sailed away with the ‘Wild Geese.’  Come woe or weal, Sean may be trusted always to find a place in the ranks of the soldiers of good causes.  Now everybody looks forward to the time when a prosperous Banba shall gather in the gold which she has wilfully scattered overseas’ (Kerry Reporter, 21 August 1926).

‘To the Editor of the Kerryman.  Dear Sir – Your Castleisland Correspondent writing in his notes of last week with reference to Sean O’Reidy’s recent departure to America, says: A fit and gallant soldier, he carried his rifle through the brunt of the recent campaigns and when all was over sailed away with the ‘Wild Geese.’   If he is referring to the Black and Tans period, the statement is quite inaccurate for Sean was not with the ‘Wild Geese’ in 1920-21.  I am aware that he carried a rifle on the side of the Allies in the late European War when he came over with the USA Army to France.  But when he was demobilised, he returned to his native parish where he lived peaceably, leisurely and unmolested from the ‘Tans Terror.’  He never carried a rifle during the latter period on behalf of the IRA.  He was never seen in an ambush, not even at a Coy, or Batt, parade, or does his name appear on the roll call of this Co or Batt.  Your Correspondent may be misinformed himself or probably he may not have been a member of the Volunteer force in this district, and, therefore, would not have the opportunity or have the first-hand knowledge to know accurately of what he wrote about, but at the same time he should be cautious and slow to give such facts to the public which at the best are only fiction.  A Volunteer 1st Batt, Kerry No 2’ (Kerryman, 28 August 1926).

‘My brief paragraph in due appreciation of a brave Irish soldier, now in exile, who carried his rifle to the last in the fight for Ireland’s freedom has evoked a pointed protest from ‘A Volunteer,’ an uncalled for stricture, the kernel of which is the mean and false innuendo that the soldier in question was not as good an Irishman as he might be.  In Oilean Ciarraide at least Sean O’Riada needs no vindication, and a perfect storm of indignation is felt that one who, in the general consensus of opinion, is a quasi or ‘sour dough’ volunteer, should thus try to asperse the fame of a brave man whose whole career has been one of sacrifice in the cause of his country.  What are the facts?  Sean O’Riada has been called the father of Sinn Fein.  From its inception he was foremost among its active leaders.  When Carson threatened mobilisation in the North he joined the American Army, simply that he might have training and experience for service in the trouble which he foresaw was coming in his native land, and he did but a soldier’s duty in the World War.  When demobilised from the US army he took the first opportunity to return to Ireland and early in 1920, we find him an organiser for Kerry No 2 Brigade.  At the time of the Truce he was appointed Brigade White Cross Inspector, resigning this position in 1921 as a protest against the action of the delegates in signing the Treaty in London.  Thus – and was it above the knowledge of ‘A Volunteer’? – did heh act in a higher capacity in the Brigade Staff of the IRA and when that fine organisation crumbled before the forces of disruption he carried his rifle in the last grim forlorn hope.  Easy leisure forsooth!  Unmolested indeed!  Was he not among the first to undergo hunger strike in Tralee gaol, whence he was released unconditionally.  Sean is hardly the stuff that renegades are made of; and if ‘A Volunteer’ will come out into the open I can promise him that there are a hundred abler pens ready to refute his impertinent and unfounded insinuations – but mullowmay sour dough’ (Kerry News, 1 September 1926).

‘To the Editor of the Kerryman.  Dear Sir – Your correspondent ‘Specs’ in his Castleisland Notes of last week offers very little proof to the public when he went out to instruct them on the valour of his hero – Sean O’Riada – that he took part in the Anglo-Irish War of 1920-21.  In his previous Notes he stated ‘that he carried his rifle through the brunt of the recent campaigns.’  Now I would not have referred to the matter in the columns of the Kerryman at all, probably I would give it the attention which is merited – that is without any attention at all – but Sean took sich an active part on the Republican side after the signing of the Treaty that I thought I was within my right to contradict the statement which I have already referred to in my previous letter.  He has not impugned my words.  He calls my first letter ‘a pointed protest,’ ‘an uncalled for stricture,’ ‘a mean and false innuendo, ‘a quasi or sough dough volunteer’ (whatever the latter phrase means, but I suppose the man in the street whom he wrote for does!) and so on through his meaningless phrases to convince the public that what he said of his hero is the truth and not fiction.  I hope I am not taking up the valuable space of the Kerryman in replying to such trash, but I hope when I am finished I will have shown that he has not the vaguest knowledge of the matter which he so freely writes about to the Press.  ‘Specs’ says ‘What are the facts?’ and he then tells us that Sean O’Riada has been called the father of Sinn Fein.  I heard always that the late Arthur Griffith was the founder of Sinn Fein, perhaps ‘Specs’ is right.  Now, every student of Irish history knows that the Sinn Fein movement founded by Griffiths was quite a distinct organisation from the Irish Volunteer movement started by MacNeill, Pearse, McDermott and others –(see Dalton’s History of Ireland, Vol 7, pp176-177, Dan Breen’s ‘My Fight for Irish Freedom, pp3-30); Griffith’s Sinn Fein movement was a political one founded on the Renunciation Act of 1783.  I will quote the second paragraph from the manifesto issued by the Sinn Fein Constitution (2) – ‘That we will not make any voluntary agreement with Great Britain until Great Britain keeps her own compact which she made by the Renunciation Act of 1783 which enacted that the right claimed by the people of Ireland to be bound only in laws enacted by His Majesty and the Parliament of that Kingdom is hereby declared to be established and ascertained for ever, and shall at no time hereafter be questioned or questionable.’  That was the movement that Sean was father of in this district.   ‘Specs’ tells us that ‘when Carson threatened mobilisation in the North, Sean joined the USA Army’; that would be about April 1912.  The Irish Volunteers were formed in November 1913 (Hobson, p142), that is to say that Sean was training 1½ years before MacNeill founded the IVF.  He informs us also that Sean’s principal reason for joining the USA Army was to fight Caron’s Volunteers, but what do we find?  After all Sean;s military training we find him side by side as comrade with Carson’s men in France on Flanders in 1918.  What an irony of fate!  And ‘Specs’ adds ‘he did a soldier’s duty during the World War.’  He did morryah.  Both of them must not have seen a popular ballad of the Irish Volunteers published in 1914 after Redmond delivering his Woodenbridge speech (Sept 20th 1921).  Here are a few lines from it: It is a wrong thing to fight for England,/A very wrong thing to do,?It is the right time to fight for Ireland/Do be staunch and true,/Don’t take the Saxon shilling,/And be not England’s slave,/Your mother country needs you,/Don’t be a knave.  We are further informed that when he returned to Ireland early in 1920, ‘we find his organiser for Kerry No 2 Brigade.’  We find nothing of the sort for whether Sean came early or late the Volunteers were organised before him.  The Easter Week, men who had been deported to England after the Rising were all released in 1917 and you may be assured that they did not let the grass grow under their feet when they had regained their liberty, they set to work to build up the organisation again, and when the Irish Conscription Bill was passed in April 1915, they were ready to meet it, and let me say here too that the Irish Bishops, Priests, and laity did their duty to the nation a this critical period.  I think it a great slur on the work of our old Brigade OC who, advanced in years, and having gone through the Land War of the eighties, did organise the Volunteers of this area when Sean was drilling in the USA for to meet the Hun.  He went through the strenuous times of Easter Week, was deported, he helped with other friends in the escape of Monteith after the landing with Casement in Banna, and when he was liberated from prison he took on his duties as ever, and yet ‘Specs’ tells us that Sean came in 1920 to organise the Brigade.  I do not know what Sean was doing in 1920 at Castleisland, but I do know he was not organising the Brigade.  Following ‘Specs’ closely in his statement of Sean’s military career ‘at the time of the Truce he was appointed Brigade White Cross Inspector, resigning this position in 1921 as a protest against the action of the delegates in signing the Treaty in London.’  Now, during the Truce the IRA were at full steam perfecting their organisation, the Treaty was not as yet signed, and they were preparing for the worst Company and Battalion camps were being formed all over the country, military manoeuvres were carried out in a large scale, and all units were instructed systematically in their work.  It seems strange to me that our hero should be changed from being a Brigade organiser in 1920 to the position held by a civilian in 1921, for that is what it was.  Ii cannot waste time and the valuable space of the Kerryman to explain who so, but I would say in passing (1) Members of the IRA were not to hold such position in the White Cross (2) Civilians did hold and compose the committees.  But Sean according to ‘Specs’ resigned as a protest, just imagine a man resigning his trust on the Committee of a benevolent society which had for its object to assist the widows, orphans and friends of those who suffered in the Tan Terror, just doing a charitable work, and ‘was it above the knowledge of ‘a Volunteer’ did he act in a higher capacity in the Brigade Staff of the IRA.’  ‘Specs’’ knowledge is not much and we know what to expect from his by this.  Further comment is useless, ‘and when that fine organisation crumbled before the forces of disruption he carried his rifle in the last grim forlorn hope,’ so Sean had a forlorn hope that he would not get the Republic when he started out in August 1922.  Was it the disruption between Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein that caused Sean to go to the Land of the Free.  But did Sean carry his rifle in the grim etc …?  Well the public is aware that he was captured by the ‘Staters’ within a few miles of the town and they did not find him very grim, he was unarmed when captured or else they forgot to bring his rifle.   ‘Specs’ tells us that he went on hunger strike in Tralee Jail but he does not mention the length of time ‘whence he was released unconditionally,’ so ends Sean’s short military career in the IRA.  The foolishness and the tragedy of it all, and if Sean was such a military genius as ‘Specs’ would lead us to believe, how was it that the FS Government did not keep him under lock and key until after the election of 1923, when mostly all prisoners were then released.  But I suppose he was not a wanted man.  No the Tans did not want him either, as his name does not appear on the circular which left the Police Barracks here every week from our secret intelligence there, and this is the man who publicly called the late General Galvin a coward on the streets of Castleisland, the hero of the North Cork Brigade, and denounced Collins and Griffiths for betraying the nation, which only for them we may have the Union Jack floating over us today.   ‘Specs’ says, ‘if ‘A Volunteer’ will come out into the open.’   Ah!  No dear ‘Specs’ and you stay in ambush, that is not the tactics of an IRA man, but he says if I did, ‘a hundred abler pens ready to refute etc.’  That must be a shock to the Editor, how is he to get the space for the hundred writers?  He said in the beginning of his Notes that ‘a perfect storm of indignation is felt,’ whether perfect or imperfect.  I got none of the breeze as yet, and there is no indication of any public meeting of protestation.  The district is calm and placid as ever.  He heads his Notes, ‘Sour Dough,’ he seems to have dough in the brain, my advice to him is to mind his milling.  He is more of an expert at that than trying to write a minor history of the Volunteers, a subject he knows little about, and meddling with a matter he does not understand.  I will not write further against him, I have not the time and to do so would be touch pitch.  He says ‘a sour dough volunteer.’  Does he think I am sour because I have not Sean’s military career.  I thank God I have not such a record.  With apologies to the Editor.  A Volunteer, 1st Batt, Kerry No 2.’  (Kerryman, 11 September 1926). 

‘SPECS’ dismissed the above in the following editions of the Kerryman (14 and 18 September 1926) as ‘A fandango of half-truths, a lie that is half a truth was ever the blackest of lies …The cream of the Kerry fighters who gave that gallant soldier, Sean O’Riada, a memorable send-off are doubtless smiling muchly at this missive of revelation which cometh like a long tailed comet to illumine the darkness of our common understanding.  And they classify A Volunteer as an invisible body lost in the far nebulae.’

‘At a meeting of the Cordal Sinn Fein Cumann on Sunday September 18th the following motion on the proposal of Mr T T O’Connor, seconded by Mr D McCarthy was unanimously adopted: That we desire to place on record our abhorrence of the uncalled for attack on Sean O’Riada by ‘Volunteer,’ Castleisland, as appeared in the Kerryman and we desire to state as old and intimate acquaintances of his, that we always considered him to be a most unselfish and sincere worker in the cause of Irish Independence’ (Kerryman, 2 October 1926). 

[14] The association was founded in New York in 1881: ‘The time has now arrived when it behoves men of Irish blood to organize, when and where they can; and, in no portion of Ireland is there more need for encouragement to be given than there is to those that live on the green hills of Kerry.  There are hundreds of the sons and daughters of Kerrymen in this city who were compelled to abandon home and friends in consequence of the tyranny of the Dennys, the Herberts, the Husseys, the Browns, the Crosbies, and Trenches and others who sucked the life-blood out of the tenantry.’  The appeal was signed by Daniel O’Shea, Killarney; Michael D Rohan, Tralee; Joseph Brennan, Killarney; Jeremiah Heggerty, Kenmare; P J Moriarty, Listowel; Jeremiah Leary, Castleisland; Michael Gueran, Blennerville; Andrew Moynahan, Killarney; James Collis, Dingle; James McKenna, Dingle; Eugene V O’Shea, Killarney.  Three hundred Kerrymen responded to the call, and M D Rohan, Tralee was appointed temporary President, and David J Vaughan, Tralee temporary Secretary.  The following committee was subsequently appointed: John C Hennessy, Listowel, Chairman; Manus O’Connor, Daniel O’Shea, Killarney; T Conway, C Teehan, Firies; Patrick J Moriarty, Listowel; Michael J Walsh, Annascaul; William Hickey, Castleisland; John Foley, Tralee; Florence Butler, Tralee; John Huggard, Clahane.  The Kerrymen’s Patriotic and Benevolent Association aimed to render ‘as far as practical financial and moral aid to the people of Kerry in any effort to improve their condition and to afford assistance in deserving cases to such Kerrymen and their families in New York as may need temporary assistance’ (Kerry Sentinel, 29 April 1881).  See also Kerry Sentinel, 15 December 1888 for notes on the association

[15] The Liberator Tralee, 24 April 1928. 

[16] From an obituary by T M Donovan, Kerry News, 24 October 1934.

[17] The inscription, in Irish, was translated and transcribed courtesy Marie Leahy.

[18] Also, Seán Ó Riada

Died March 17, 1967

[19] Kerryman, 1 April 1967. ‘The prayers at the graveside were recited by the Very Rev Laurence Canon Duff PP, Castleisland.  In an oration at the graveside, Mr John J Rice recalled that in 1903 Sean O Riada, who was a founder member of Sinn Fein, had decided when a very young man and when it was not fashionable to resist the British, to go to jail rather than obey their laws.  From then onward all his energies were devoted to the cause of Irish freedom.  He was on active service with the seventh battalion Kerry No 2 Brigade, IRA in the Anglo Irish and Civil Wars and never compromised his loyalty to the Republic.  His remains were accompanied from New York by his niece.  President de Valera was represented by Lt Colonel J J O’Reilly, 3rd Brigade. A decade of the Rosary was recited by Mr John J Sheehy’ (‘Veteran IRA man laid to rest in Kilbannivane,’ Kerryman, 1 April 1967).

‘Sean O Riada, who has died in New York, aged 84, was a native of Castleisland, Co Kerry, and a founder member of Sinn Fein.  He served with the 7th Battalion, Kerry No 2 Brigade, IRA, during the War of Independence and the Civil War.  Sean O Riada has a number of relatives in the Castleisland area’ (Irish Press, 21 March 1967).

‘The death has occurred in New York of Mr Sean O Riada, a founder member of Sinn Fein in 1903.  He was aged 85.  Mr O Riada was a native of Castleisland, Co Kerry.  Unmarried, he is survived by a niece, Mrs Kelleher, In New York.  He went to America shortly before the 1914-18 war and returned home in 1921 when he joined the Battalion Staff of the 7th Battalion in East Kerry and was active during the later stages of the War of Independence.  He took the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War and returned to the US at the end of hostilities.  A life-long member of the IRB he was also deeply involved in the work of the Gaelic League.  He returned to Ireland about eight years ago for the opening of the Memorial at Ballyseedy near Tralee, to the members of the Republican forces who lost their lives there in a Civil War incident’(Irish Independent, 21 March 1967).

[20] ‘Deeply regretted by his niece [Mrs Kelleher], relatives and friends.  Remains will arrive Shannon Airport at 8am Wednesday leaving at 3 o’clock for Castleisland Church, arriving approx. 5 o’clock.  Funeral Thursday at 1 o’clock’ (Irish Independent, 22 March 1967).

[21] It is not clear if the suggestion applies to the musician Sean O’Riada or Sean O’C Riada.