Civilian Helena Barry


Civilian Helena Barry (aged 26) of Gortroe near Bantry (Gortroe)

Date of incident: 3 Oct. 1922

Sources: FJ, 9 Oct., 14 Nov. 1922; SS, 14 Oct. 1922; Death Certificate (Bantry District, Union of Bantry), 11 Nov. 1922; CE, 13 Nov. 1922; Evening Herald, 13 Nov. 1922; Keane (2017), 322, 419.


Note: Helena Barry died at the Mercy Hospital in Cork city on 11 November 1922 as a result of a bullet wound received at her home at Gortroe near Bantry on 3 October. The attending doctor believed that the single wound in her back had pierced her lung. In the end, after a month in the hospital, she died of ‘cardiac failure, the result of a bullet wound’. Her family sought and obtained a court of military inquiry in the belief that firing by Free State troops at IRA soldiers around her house had caused her death.

Her mother Brigid Barry ‘told the court that on the day her daughter was shot, irregulars passed the road and asked for a drink of milk. She gave them a drink, and when they were at the door, she said she saw National troops fire at them. It was about 9 p.m. when the irregulars called. The firing went on [for] about half-an-hour. Then the irregulars went away and the National troops came in and searched the house, but they found nothing and went out again. After that more firing started and lasted about three hours. Her daughter, who was in the kitchen washing when the firing began, went under the table for protection, but she was struck by a bullet. After some time the irregulars came back and sent for a priest and doctor.’

Helena’s brother Patrick Barry informed the court that ‘the Republicans’ had told him that National troops had done the firing at the Barrys’ house as a result of which his sister had died. But his evidence was not credited because he had for a time been an Irregular himself (he admitted as much to the court) and because he refused to provide clear evidence about the complicity of the National troops. As he told the court, ‘I will get no man into trouble.’ ‘I won’t give you any information’, he declared at another point.

The court found that Helena Barry’s wound had been ‘accidently inflicted during a conflict between National troops and Irregulars’. The court expressed its regret that ‘although allegations were made against the National troops, the relatives of the deceased have declined to produce any evidence to sustain these charges’. See CE, 13 Nov. 1922.

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