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President's father took part in wartime irA raid

THE father of Irish President Michael D Higgins took part in an IRA raid on a mail train during the War of independence.

John Higgins was a lieutenant in the north cork Brigade of the IRA, according to official witness statements supplied by IRA members that are held by the Bureau of Military History.

One statement describes how the president's father was one of the 20 volunteers in the 'charleville' company who held up a mail train from Dublin to cork at charleville railway station in cork in 1920.

They ordered the driver to drive slowly out of the station for a mile and then unloaded all the military mail and sent it to IRA battalion headquarters for intelligence-gathering purposes.

President Higgins mentioned his father's role in fighting for independence in a speech to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster during his state visit to England last week.

"The people of Ireland greatly cherish the political independence that was secured in 1922 -- an independence which was fought for by my father and many of his generation," he said.

During the irish civil War, John Higgins was imprisoned in the curragh and this led to him losing his job at a shop in cork.

Because of the subsequent financial pressures on his family, the future president and his brother John were sent to live with an aunt and uncle in co clare and would only see their parents and sisters once a month.

The Bureau of Military History website contains 36,000 pages of witness statements about the 1916 rising and the War of independence.

* SPEECH: President Michael D Higgins delivering a speech to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, in which he mentioned his father's role in the War of Independence. John Higgins took part in an IRA raid on a mail train in 1920

* CENTENARY: A member of the British royal family will take part in the 1916 Easter Rising centenary commemorations in Dublin in 2016

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