‘The Galway Resolution’ - An attempted coup by some county councillors

On December 3 1920, at the height of the War of Independence, quite an extraordinary event happened in Galway County Council. It passed a resolution, known as ‘The Galway Resolution’, repudiating the authority of the newly established Dáil; it rescinded the resolution for the collection of rates, (which were collected locally, and passed on to Dáil Éireann, and not to the British authorities ), and incredibly, Galway County Council now offered its offices to negotiate peace, directly with the British prime minister, David Lloyd George.

It was an extraordinary development after a terrible year of violence, and sacrifice in Galway. That year, 1920, saw murder and mayhem come to a climax.

On September 8 a drunk Black and Tan, Edward Krumm, entered the railway station just as the Dublin train came in. He began firing his revolver into the air, causing panic. Séan Mulvoy jumped on his back; but as the two men fell to the ground, Krumm managed to shoot Mulvoy dead. In turn a man stepped from the crowd and shot Krumm. That night the Black and Tans went on the rampage, burning and looting. Seamus Quirke, a young shop assistant, was shot dead.

On October 15 the Barna schoolteacher Patrick Joyce was taken from his home and shot. He had written a letter to Dublin Castle, outlining Sinn Féin activities in the area. His letter was intercepted, and handed to the IRA.

On November 2, Ellen Quinn, a young mother nursing her child, was shot dead outside her home at Kiltartan. The shot came from a passing Crossly tender carrying Tans.

On November 14 Fr Michael Griffin, a known Sinn Féin sympathiser, was taken from his home at Sea Road, and shot. His body was found some days later in a shallow grave near Barna.

Such a terrible list of events must have unnerved some of the councillors. The county council vice-chairman, and Sinn Féin representative, Alice Cashel, was in London when she was shown the Daily Mail with its headline ‘Galway council sues for peace’. She was stunned. She returned home as soon as she could.

It appeared odd that when Sinn Féin had a majority on the council at that time, that such a resolution should have been passed (if indeed it was ); and made public which caused alarm in nationalist circles; and a certain amount of glee in unionist ones.

Huge welcome

Alice Cashel (1878-1958 ) was a brave and intelligent woman totally devoted to the republican cause. Born in Birr, Co Offaly, the family moved to Cork where she joined the Gaelic League, becoming great friends with Terence Mac Swiney, (elected the Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork ), and his wife Mary. The two women were founder members of Cumann na mBan in Cork. Later Alice became its national organiser.

Alice now moved to Cashel, Connemara, living in her sister’s house coincidently located under Cashel Hill.**

She attempted to organise a Cumann na mBan society in Clifden, but was harassed by the police. She remained on the platform until the last plank was removed, much to the delight of the crowd. She then led the crowd outside the town to the Monument, where the meeting continued and its manifesto proudly read and cheered.

Alice was arrested and spent a week in Galway gaol. She returned to a huge welcome, and fires lit on Cashel Hill. She was co-opted by Sinn Féin on to Galway County Council, and immediately elected its vice-chairman.

Acted illegally

The attempted coup by some members to reject the authority of the Dáil, to rescind the decision to pass on all collected rates to the newly set up Irish Government, and to ask the British prime minister to enter negotiations to bring the slaughter to an end, infuriated republicans. Many of whom had made great sacrifices, and believed they were on the road to achieve Irish freedom.

They believed that such a move by Galway county council had betrayed the leaders of 1916, and the men and women still in prison or in their graves. George Nicholls, a prominent member of the volunteers in Galway,*** managed to get a letter to Alice as she made her way back, insisting that she end this travesty at once.

He need not have worried. Alice went straight to the county buildings, and called an extraordinary meeting of the council. It was immediately obvious that the members who attempted the coup had not even a quorum for support, and had therefore acted illegally. She had the so called ‘Galway Resolution’ thrown out. She further insisted that the rates be immediately paid to Dáil Éireann. The council secretary, Mr Seymour, warned her that she could be arrested for this action.

Word had quickly gone around the town that Alice Cashel was back, and she had thrown out the Galway Resolution. As Alice left the building she was arrested and taken to Eglinton Street barracks.

More next week: Imprisonment again, and Dr Ada English.

NOTES: Initially, despite Liam Mellows coming out with 200 volunteers, and attacking RIC stations in east Galway, the city was slow to accept the Rising. The large army presence was a life-line for many businesses. Following Easter week, Galway county council passed a resolution condemning the Rising. At the urban council, Máirtin Mór McDonogh condemned the Rising but appealed for clemency for its leaders.

By August 1917, the county council sensed a change of mood. It attempted to rescind its earlier resolution condemning the Rising. The vote was 11 - 11. The resolution remained unchanged.

In the 1918 elections Sinn Féin swept into power. Out of 40,496 votes cast in Galway 31,271, or 77.22 per cent were cast for SF. Following the 1920 June local elections SF won control of both local councils, and rescinded the original motions condemning the Rising.

** Alice’s sister Agnes married James O’Mara, a wealthy man in his own right. He was elected to Westminster on a Home Rule ticket, but later resigned and became a member of Sinn Fein, and elected to the Dáil. He was a brillient fundraiser. With Éamon de Valera in America he raised more than $3 million for the cause.

***George Nicholls was a solicitor who worked at GC Conroy’s office at Francis Street. In 1913 he was involved in setting up the volunteers and planning the Rising with Liam Mellows. During a recruitment meeting for the British army in September 1915 he, and professor of chemistry Tom Dillon, pelted the platform with particularly offensive stink bombs, while Tom Hynes, Seamus Carter, John Hosty and Michael Kavanagh cut the electricity, plunging the hall into darkness. The meeting was abandoned.

I am taking this week’s Diary from notes on ‘Alice Cashel’, by Mark Humphreys; Alice Cashel-A Fenian at Heart by Christine Cozzens, and Tom Kenny, Galway Advertiser December 17 2015.

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