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Serving British soldier `given leave' to fight with rebels

Oblivious military authorities gave Cusack leave. He changed from his British to Volunteer uniform heading to Cavan

A SERVING British soldier was unwittingly given leave by his military bosses to join rebel forces in the 1916 Rising, newly released archives have revealed.

Sean Cusack, a member of the army reserve who was re-mobilised in August 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War, was moonlighting as director of training for the Irish Volunteers in Belfast.

According to files released by the Irish Military Archives on Friday, when news of the Rising in Dublin reached the north, prominent republican leader Denis McCullough ordered him to travel to Cavan to take charge of the volunteers there.

The oblivious military authorities in Belfast gave him leave, which he used to take part in a rebellion against them and he changed from his British to his Volunteer uniform and made for Cavan.

He was `recalled' when the Rising failed to spread into Ulster and subsequently arrested and given a medical discharge from the British Army.

Cusack went on to play an active part in the War of Independence as a commander of the Irish Volunteers in Belfast and east Down.

During the 1918 conscription crisis he surrendered his British army pension, ending up `penniless', `looked shabby and hungry' and had to resort to pawning wedding presents because he could not afford to buy food for his family.

Ultimately he was awarded a service pension by the new Irish state in the 1920s.

A total of 13,000 new files have been released, containing information on 3,982 veterans of the revolutionary period.

It is the third in a series of releases which began in January 2014 and will continue until 2023.

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