Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Kieran Kenny 1887-1922

Kieran Kenny was born at Banagher in 1887. His parents Michael and Rosanna Kenny operated ‘The Irish House’ drapery shop on main street. Kenny was a Gaelic games enthusiast and member of the Gaelic League.

Moving to Dublin, he lodged on Reubens Street with his cousins James and Mary Kenny from High Street. Like James he found work at Todd Burns department store at the corner of Mary’s Street and Jervis Street (now Pennys/Primark headquarters).

The Kenny cousins both joined the Irish Volunteers on their formation in 1913. Kieran was part of ‘A’ company, 4th Battalion based at Larkfield, Kimmage on the estate of the Plunket family. When a consignment of arms was smuggled from Germany onboard the Asgard in June 1914, he was among the volunteer contingent which marched to Howth and transported the weaponry back to Dublin.

In September 1914, the movement spilt after Home Rule leader John Redmond called on volunteers to support the British war effort. Kenny backed the group headed by Eoin MacNeill which opposed British Army recruitment. Meanwhile, members of the IRB military council garnered more control over the Volunteer organisation, which they hoped to use in staging a rebellion.

When MacNeill refused to back the IRB men’s scheme and issued a countermanding order cancelling manoeuvres on Easter Sunday 1916, the military council revised their position and postponed the planned Rising for one day.

On Easter Monday, Kieran Kenny attended 6 AM mass at Mount Argus church before traveling to the home of Eamonn Ceannt, where he received mobilisation orders to be delivered to battalion officers. Stationed at the Distillery Gate on Marrowbone Lane throughout Easter Week, he fought under James Murphy until the general surrender the following Sunday.

Transported to England he was imprisoned at Knutsford, Chesire and in Frongoch internment camp in Wales before his release in late 1916.

Returning to Offaly, following his internment Kenny’s health collapsed. He spent a period in a sanatorium after being diagnosed with TB, an illness his family and friends linked to conditions he had endured during his detention.

Joining the Banagher company of the volunteers he was involved in training and intelligence work but never regained good health.

He passed away at the Meath Hospital in October 1922. He was buried at the Kenny family plot in Clonmacnoise following a funeral in Banagher.

On the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, a commemoration for South and West Offaly was held at Clonmacnoise. Mass was offered at the oratory, the local FCA carried out military honours. The crowd containing a contingent from the Offaly No. 2 Brigade of the Old IRA were addressed by GAA President Alf Murray who unveiled a plaque in memory of the three 1916 veterans buried at the site, Kieran Kenny, James Kenny and Patrick McDonnell.

 

The author wishes to acknowledge the existing work on Kieran Kenny and west Offaly during the revolutionary decade, carried out by Padraig Heavin.


Sources:

Military Service Pension Collection. Kieran Kenny 1D457 search online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/military-service-pensions-collection- 1916-1923

J.F. Burke. The Midland Tribune 1916-1966 supplement online at https://www.offalyhistory.com/wp- content/uploads/2017/03/Supplement-1966.pdf

Padraig Heaney ‘On the banks of three rivers: Stories from West Offaly’ (Cork) 2015.

Padraig Heaney. ‘West Offaly and the 1916 Rising’ In Offaly Heritage 9 edited by Ciaran Reilly. (Tullamore) 2016.

Dr. Philip McConway. ‘Offaly’s links to the 1916 Rising’. Online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkEiuHJc8J0

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