Civilian Michael (‘Mickaroo’) Walsh

Civilian Michael (‘Mickaroo’) Walsh (aged 43) of Kearney’s Lane, Cork city (outside Cork Union Hospital, Cork city)

Date of incident: 18 Feb. 1921 (ex-soldier killed as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: CE, 19, 21 Feb. 1921; FJ, 19 Feb. 1921; CWN, 26 Feb. 1921; CCE, 26 Feb. 1921; Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA); Details of the Anglo-Irish Conflict, 1916-21, by Seán Collins Power, p. 5 (Collins Papers, Military Archives); Interview with Eamon Enright, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks, P17b/103 (UCDA); Interview with Michael (Mick) Murphy, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks, P17b/112 (UCDA); Letter signed by Captain O’Kelly MS. 31,223/1, Florence O’Donoghue Papers (NLI); Commandant P. J. Murphy’s WS 869, 19, 25 (BMH); Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 37 (BMH); Seán Healy’s WS 1643, 22 (BMH); Edward Horgan’s WS 1644, 10-11 (BMH); Borgonovo (2007), 43-44, 54-55, 76-78, 100 (note 71); Murphy (2010), 41; Ó Ruairc (2016), 120.         


Note: Previously a foreman over workers at Ford’s Tractor Works and a builder’s labourer, Walsh was taken from the Cork Union Hospital by six armed and disguised men. His body was found outside the Union gate. A card pinned to his clothing read: ‘Caught at last. Spies and informers beware. — I.R.A.’ Aged 43, Walsh was a Boer war veteran and currently a jobless construction worker who was being treated in this hospital for a ‘functional disorder’. The raiders carried him down the stairs from his ward, out the workhouse gate, and onto the road, where they riddled his body with bullets. See CE, 19 Feb. 1921.

Walsh had previously been prosecuted in a Sinn Féin court in Cork city; the court had ordered that he be evicted from one of the houses owned by the father of former city Volunteer P. J. Murphy at 63 Blarney Street. Murphy recalled this set of events many years later: ‘After the trial he [Walsh] gave the names of the court and the local Volunteers to the police. He was rewarded with money for this information. His sister got the draft and went to cash it in the local shop, where it was reported to the local Volunteers. He was arrested by the Volunteers and sentenced to be deported. He left the country and went to Wales. After a few months he returned. We made two attempts to arrest him, and on each occasion he got away from us, on the first occasion by diving into a shop full of women and children, and the second time [by] throwing himself off a high wall. On each occasion he went to the military barracks and brought the military to our homes. While with the British in Cork [Military] Barracks, Walsh fell into bad health, and they transferred him to the Cork workhouse. One night in February 1921 he was brought out on a stretcher to the backgate of the workhouse and shot dead by the I.R.A.’ See Commandant P. J. Murphy’s WS 869, 19 (BMH).  Walsh’s association with Crown forces went back some time prior to this.  A letter dated 27-2-1921 and signed by Captain Kelly, Sixth Division Intelligence Officer, noted that Walsh had been rescued by British troops on a raid on the Cork mental asylum, where he was being detained by the IRA.  Kelly states, ‘we sent him to England, but he returned and was shot by rebels’.  See NLI, MS. 31,223 (NLI).

According to city Volunteer leader Michael Murphy, ‘Information about this spy was discovered by us in captured mails. He was also observed by some of our intelligence men going into police barracks.’ See Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 37 (BMH). Murphy also told Ernie O’Malley that ‘Mickaroo’ Walsh ‘was a definite spy and a low type. He was shot in Blarney Street [Cork], but he wasn’t killed and he was removed to the South Infirmary [and] to the Union Hospital. He was suffering badly from venereal disease. Tom Crofts pulled him out and he was shot outside of the hospital. He [Walsh] knew who was who, and he had given information about prominent officers in the Irish Volunteers.’ See Interview with Michael (Mick) Murphy, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks, P17b/112 (UCDA).

After Walsh’s return from IRA-imposed exile and about a month before his death, while staying with his sister, fourteen shots were fired into their house, and a squad of IRA gunmen chased him into another house, in the process trampling on a child that his sister was nursing and mortally injuring the child. See CE, 21 Feb. 1921. In the 1911 census there was a illiterate builder’s labourer named Michael Walsh (then aged 34) residing on Moore Street in Cork city. He and his wife Maryann, though married for ten years, were then childless. He was a Catholic. The name of Michael Walsh appears in the Compensation Commission Register under 18 February 1921, but the issue of liability was left unstated; compensation of £650 was awarded. See Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA).

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