Limerick County Council calls in experts to preserve historical uniform as questions are posed

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

AN Old Irish Republican Army uniform, worn by a man killed in action during the War of Independence is to undergo specialist repairs before it goes back on display in Rathkeale library.

AN Old Irish Republican Army uniform, worn by a man killed in action during the War of Independence is to undergo specialist repairs before it goes back on display in Rathkeale library.

But mystery surrounds the cap that accompanied the uniform as it carries the badge of the Dublin Regiment, the crack unit of the National Army which was established after the treaty.

The uniform belonged to Sean Finn, 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. The uniform was donated to Limerick County Council by members of his family and was on display in Rathkeale library until last February.

Now, according to a report from county conservation officer Tom Cassidy, the uniform needs the attention of conservation experts – because light-rays have faded it and have begun to damage the fibres of the material itself.

Mr Cassidy also explained that experts who had examined the uniform in Dublin had come up with a number of queries. “A major query pertains to the cap,” he told councillors. “The badge is that of the Dublin Regiment, also known as the Dublin Guard. Its foundations stems from mid 1921 with the amalgamation of the remnants of the Dublin Brigade with The Squad, following the lossed incurred in the attack on the Customs House. Its personnel had personal ties to Michael Collins and it was seen as the crack unit of the National Army which was established by the Provisional Government in February 1922.”

This, and other information about the uniform, came to light following a visit to Rathkeale by Dr Pat Wallace, shortly before his retirement as director of the National Museum. He examined the uniform and later wrote to Dan Neville TD explaining its historical significance and offering the services of the museum’s conservation laboratory at Collins Barracks.

The County Council will now engage experts in conservation to carry out whatever necessary repairs are needed, Mr Cassidy explained. Meanwhile, the uniform which includes jacket, trousers, jodphurs cap, shoes, leggings and belt, will be returned to Limerick where it will be stored in climate-controlled conditions in Lissanalta House until that work can be carried out.

A full version of this story was published in the Limerick Leader, print edition, dated April 14, 2012