The uniform of Irish War of Independence hero Sean Finn is to be restored and put on display again in Rathkeale library within the next two months.
The uniform had been on display in the library up to two years ago but there was some concern expressed by Dr Pat Wallace, former director of the National Museum, about its condition and it was subsequently removed for restoration and repair.
Tom Cassidy, Limerick County Council’s conservation officer, said that the uniform had since been inspected by the head of the military collections in the National Museum and also by scientists at the State Laboratory. Following the examination, the uniform was returned to Limerick County Council and has been kept in a hermetically sealed case since.
Conservation experts recently carried out another assessment of the uniform and found that while there has been some irreversible damage caused by ultraviolet light, the fabric can be partially repaired and cleaned at a cost of about €7,700. Mr Cassidy told this month’s meeting of Rathkeale electoral area that a grant of €4,000 had been secured from the Heritage Council to carry out this work, while matching funding would be made available from the county library service.
A new display case will be installed in the Rathkeale library and an interpretative panel prepared by Tom O’Neill of Limerick County Council. Mr Cassidy said they would hope to have this on display “within two months”.
Asked by Cllr David Naughton if there were any other artefacts relating to Sean Finn that could be included as part of the display, Mr Cassidy said the council would be inviting anyone with any materials to bring them to the council’s attention.
In particular, he said they would be interested in a document that was pinned to the door of a house in the area by Crown forces listing all the males living in the property at the time.
Such a document would be of great interest and if it was brought to his attention, a copy could be made and the original would be returned to the owner, Mr Cassidy added.
He said that the display of the Sean Finn uniform would provide an opportunity to highlight Limerick’s involvement in the War of Independence.
Cllr Naughton pointed out that West Limerick was “a hive of activity” during that period.
Sean Finn was a commandant with the West Limerick Brigade of the Irish Republican Army who was killed by British forces in Ballyhahill in March, 1921 just months before the ceasefire.
His uniform, which includes a jacket, trousers, jodhpurs cap, shoes, leggings and belt, was donated to Limerick County Council by members of his family.