Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Patrick Geraghty 1890-1923

Patrick Geraghty was born at Old Town, Rochfordbridge, around 1890. Patrick’s mother died when he was quiet young, and he was a raised by his father Thomas, an aunt and three older sisters. After Thomas’s death in 1913, Patrick ran the family farm.

In early 1917, Thomas Malone from Meedin outside Tyrellspass reorganised the Irish Volunteers in South Westmeath. Many of the units affiliated by Malone later went on to form the 3rd Battalion, Offaly IRA’s No.I Brigade. In time Patrick Geraghty was appointed O.C. of the 3rd Battalion.  

Geraghty took part in numerous raids for arms and was present at the Offaly Brigade’s unsuccessful attempt to capture Clara RIC Barracks in June 1920. In April 1921, he helped to organise an attack on Rochfordbridge Barracks. A month later he was one of a party which executed a tramp, Samuel Lee on suspicion of spying.

Taking an anti-treaty position he was on the run from the early days of the Civil War. In November 1922, he and Joe Byrne were captured at a safe house in Croghan, after shots were exchanged with National Army troops.

 In September 1922, the pro-treaty provisional government had passed the Army Emergency Powers Resolution, which enabled the creation of Military Courts with the power to enact the death penalty on those found with firearms. A series of executions occurred in Dublin and Kildare throughout late 1922. In January 1923, with the Civil War dragging on, Kevin O’Higgins advocated the use of the death penalty nationwide to diminish republican resistance.

In addition, Free State forces began to apply an unofficial hostage policy, with anti-treaty fighters sentenced to death and a stay placed on execution. In early January 1923, Geraghty and his companion Joe Byrne were found guilty of possessing firearms at a military court. Republican accounts consistently claimed that while Geraghty was armed when captured, Byrne had managed to dispose of his weapon and the gun used to convict him had belonged to an IRA officer who had escaped the roundup.  

On January 7th, the North Offaly IRA ambushed a National Army column at the Range Wall, near Raheen outside Geashill. Later that month two soldiers, Patrick Lynch and P.C White died at the Curragh hospital from wounds they had received in the ambush.

Dr Phillip McConway draws a direct link between the ambush deaths and the decision to carry out the death sentence. Told that he was to be shot, Patrick Geraghty wrote to his family…

By the time you receive this letter I will be in heave by god’s help and grace. Now don’t fret or be annoyed because I am very happy, I have made a general confession and the priest told me I am going straight to heaven. I forgive everyone & I don’t have malice to anyone, the men who are going to execute me I will pray for them oh I am happy myself and Joe are going together to heaven for anyhow the world is but empty and what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul.’ (1)

Geraghty and Byrne were executed by firing squad at Portlaoise Prison on the morning of January 27th, 1923. The executions were unusual in that Byrne and Geraghty were relatively high-ranking officers, with some notable exceptions, many of those executed during the Civil War were low ranking IRA men.

In 1924 the bodies of all those executed during the Civil War were released to their families for burial. The coffins of Geraghty, Byrne and Thomas Gibson were lead through Portlaiose by two bands and accorded guards of honour from the Laois IRA. Gibson’s remains were transferred for burial at Raheen. Meanwhile, Geraghty and Byrne’s funeral procession amalgamated with that of three young Tullamore men executed at Birr in January 1923, As the cortege travelled through Tullamore the Clonaslee Band played the ‘Death March’, their remains were waked in the towns Sinn Féin rooms.

After his funeral mass, Geraghty remains were reinterred at Meedin churchyard close to grave of Patrick Seery, who had died from wounds received taking part in Clara Barracks attack.

The author wishes to acknowledge the longstanding research of Dr. Philip McConway with regard to Offaly’s Civil War Dead.


Sources:

1901 and 1911 Census. Search online at http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/search/

Bureau of Military History Statements. Tomas Malone ‘Sean Forde’ Witness 845. Sean O’Neill Witness 1219. Search online at  https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/bureau-of-military-history-1913-1921/bmhsearch/

Military Service Pension Collection. Brigade Activity Report; Offaly No I. Patrick Geraghty 1704. Search online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/military-service-pensions-collection-1916-1923

Michael Hopkinson. Green against Green, the Irish Civil War (Dublin) 1988.

Daithí O Corráin and Eunan O’Halpin. The dead of the Irish Revolution. (Yale) 2020.

Phillip McConway. ‘Offaly and the Civil War Executions’ in Offaly Heritage Vol 5. 2007-08.

Philip McConway. The Civil War in Offaly- Part 2. In the Midland Tribune 2 January 2008 online at https://www.offalyhistory.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/6_civil_war_2.pdf

Phillip McConway. ‘A fatal Civil War Ambush in Offaly and Its consequences’ Offaly Live online at https://www.offalyexpress.ie/news/tullamore-tribune/1031407/history-a-fatal-civil-war-ambush-in-offaly-and-its-consequences.html

Leinster Leader 8 November 1924.

Offaly Independent. 15 April 1939. 4 September 1970.

Offaly Independent 30 January 2023 online at https://www.offalyindependent.ie/2023/01/30/two-offaly-republicans-were-executed-100-years-ago/

Westmeath Examiner. 23 March 2019. 28 January 2023.

Westmeath Independent 1 November 1924.

(1) Philip MacConway. ‘Offaly and the Civil War Executions’ in Offaly Heritage Vol 5. 2007-08 p.272.

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