Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Denis Fitzgerald 1895-1961

Denis Fitzgerald was born at Corracullen, Doon on the Westmeath border in 1895. His parents James and Brigid Fitzgerald were strong farmers and Denis was a noted judge of stock. His sister Mary married Patrick J Doyle an Easter Week veteran who helped establish the local volunteer battalion in 1917. Fitzgerald himself married PJ Doyle’s cousin Mary Feeney. Mary’s brothers were leading members of Ferbane IRA, and she had been raised by her relations the Whites of Rashina another well-known republican family.

From 1917, Fitzgerald was involved in organising a volunteer company in the Doon. Along with the neighbouring Ferbane company he was involved in holding up military vehicles travelling between Athlone and Hunston camp. He was later promoted to the Battalion commandant.

During the Truce, Fitzgerald organised a series of Battalion training camps. Rejecting the Treaty, he assisted in organising resistance to the National Army advance from Athlone. Following the failure of Republicans to halt pro-Treaty forces at Ferbane and Belmont, he formed an Active Service Unit which often targeted the railway system.

The column consisting of 16 men billeted on Bellair Hill were detained there having been surprised while partaking in a threshing in October 1922. Imprisoned at Mountjoy and Hare Park the Curragh, on his release from imprisonment the Free State authorities unsuccessfully attempted to prosecute Fitzgerald for his role in commandeering a motor car and clothing at Strawberry Hill and Cloghan in the run up to the Civil War.

Emigrating to New York in the middle of the 1920s. He settled in the Bronx and worked in construction. He passed away in December 1961. In his obituary the Brigade adjutant Joe Reddin wrote that Fitzgerald was…

‘an inspiration to his comrades at all times. Unassuming in disposition yet inspired with sincerity and ever alert for action.’ (1)

His funeral to the Gate of Heaven Cemetery Westchester was accompanied by guards of honour from the New York Offaly hurling and football teams, the Sons of Offaly and republican comrades.

The author wishes to acknowledge the very substantial existing work carried out on the family links of west Offaly republicans by Brendan Ryan in his article The Poet and the Rose


Sources:

Freemans Journal. 28 October 1922.

Leinster Reporter. 12 January 1924.

Offaly Independent. 20 January 1962.

Brendan Ryan ‘The poet and the rose’ on Offaly Heritage edited by Rory Masterson (Tullamore) 2008.

(1) Offaly Independent 20 January 1962.

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