TWO Limerick brothers shot dead by a raiding party of RIC and Black and Tans during the War of Independence are to be commemorated with a monument being unveiled in Parteen this Sunday.
It has been erected by a local committee in memory of teenagers Cecil and Aidan O’Donovan, who were killed in an incident known in local lore as the Blackwater Tragedy on February 20, 1921.
Three of the O’Donovan brothers and a first cousin Brendan had left their home in Thomondgate to search for bird’s nests at Blackwater Mill, Parteen, near where McMahon’s pub stands today.
Details of what happened next remain cloudy to this day but it is believed a person who spotted the youths reported to the British military in Limerick that they were IRA men engaged in a training exercise.
“At 1.30pm a party of Black and Tans arrived at Blackwater and, without warning, opened fire upon the O’Donovans. Cecil and Aidan O’Donovan were both killed instantly before an officer intervened to stop the shooting. The deaths of Cecil and Aidan O’Donovan reflected the terror and danger that lurked in Ireland in 1921 when totally innocent civilians could be shot down without warning as they went about their normal lives,” said a spokesman for the Meelick-Parteen and Cratloe Commemoration Committee, the non-political group behind the memorial project.
Cecil O’Donovan was 18 years old when he was killed while his brother Aidan, at just 14, was one of the youngest victims of the War of Independence.
Historian Tom Toomey, who will deliver an oration at the monument unveiling on Easter Sunday, said the O’Donovans came from a non-political family that was in no way involved in the conflict.
In Toomey’s account of the military inquiry which followed the killings, it was made clear that no order to open fire had been given by the officers commanding the raiding party.
One of them, a Captain David Sturrock - an intelligence officer attached to the New Barracks (now Sarsfield Barracks) - reported to have seen seven to nine men leaving the barracks around which the O’Donovans were playing. But this must be open to huge doubt from proceedings at the inquiry, according to Mr Toomey.
“No question was raised about the phantom ‘8 or 9’ men that Sergeant Horan and Captain Sturrock claimed to have seen. This was especially important in light of the fact that the court accepted that the incident was a ‘tragic misadventure’.
If the court believed that there were other persons, other than Brendan O’Donovan, present it is doubtful that they would have classed the incident as a ‘tragic misadventure’, they were much more likely to deem it a ‘justifiable homicide’,” he stated.
This Sunday’s ceremonies begins at 1pm with a wreath-laying at Meelick Churchyard. This will be followed by the unveiling of the monument to the O’Donovan brothers next to McMahon’s Pub at Blackwater. A commemorative booklet published by the committee will be on sale at the event.