Republic of Ireland news

Centenary of Irish War of Independence marked in Co Donegal

The dramatic rescue was staged at the Londonderry and Lough Swilly railway station at Meenbanad near Dungloe
Seamus McKinney

THE centenary of what many believe was the first action of the Irish War of Independence is being marked in Co Donegal.

A year before the IRA shot dead two policemen at Soloheadbeg in Co Tipperary, the first fatalities of the war, a dramatic rescue of two local republicans from a British army and RIC escort was staged in west Donegal.

The men, James Duffy and James Ward, had served as British soldiers on the Western Front but deserted to join growing republican forces back home in 1917.

They were eventually captured by police at a dance at Kincasslagh on New Year’s Eve.

On January 4 1918, an RIC party arrived from Derry to bring the pair to the city by Lough Swilly train where it was expected they would be court-martialled and almost certainly executed for desertion.

However, the men’s colleagues led an escape at Meenbanad Station, between Kincasslagh and Dungloe.

As the RIC prepared to remove the men from the area, armed republicans overpowered the military escort. Ward made good his escape immediately while Duffy had a number of near-captures before he too managed to go free.

A number of different accounts of what happened, collected by historian John Sharkey, will be released online at Dúchas Thír Chonaill (donegalheritage.com) later today.

A commemoration, organised by Donegal independent councillor Micheál Cholm Mac Giolla Easpaig and addressed by political activist Mary Ward and Derry independent councillor Gary Donnelly, will also be held at the site of the former Meenbanad station on Sunday.

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