Kerry IRA Struck First Blow Of Tan War At Gortatlea – Saoradh Nuacht

On 13th of April 1918, the IRA Company of the Irish Republican Army attacked Gortatlea RIC barracks. This was the first organised attack by the Irish Republican Army on any barrack’s in the period after 1916 and preceded the Soloheadbeg incident, which is taken as the start of the Tan War, by nine months.

A hundred years ago today on June 18th Tom Mc Ellistrim who was Company Captian and his Lieutenant John Cronin shot two RIC men on the streets of Tralee declaring war on the British Empire.

The conscription threat in Ireland provoked a sense of outrage throughout the land. As the anger was at its height on April 10th 1918, seven member’s of the Ballymacelligott Company of the Irish Republican Army, decided to arm themselves properly by raiding the RIC barracks at Gortalea for weapons.

They planned the raid for Saturday night, April 13th, while two of the four RIC men stationed there would be out on routine patrol.

After Crown Force RIC member’s Martin Boyle and Patrick Fallon had gone on patrol, Volunteer Tom Mc Ellistrim and his comrades raided the Crown Force barrack’s as the Cork- Tralee train was pulling into the railway station. Crown Force member’s Boyle and Fallon saw this from the railway station. Both were armed. They slipped up to the open door of the barrack’s and they could see what was going on inside. Tom Mc Ellistrim insisted that the two Crown Force members began shooting and that he and the other Irish Republican Army Volunteers were caught by surprise. Irish Republican Army Volunteers John Brown and Richard Laide were shot with Volunteer John Brown dying instantly with Volunteer Richard Laide dying later in hospital.

When people came to take Volunteer John Brown’s body away, Crown Force member Fallon from Strabane, dismissively said: ” You can wrap the green flag around him”.

These two Crown Force members were transferred out of Kerry, but Tom Mc Ellistrim learned that they would be in Tralee on June 14th, to give evidence in court. Tom and John Cronin went to Tralee with plans to shoot Crown Force member’s Boyle and Fallon.

They brought two shotguns hidden in a sack while they waited in a bar in the Mall. As the two Crown Force members were heading to the RIC barracks from the court for lunch, the Irish Republican Army Volunteers raced across the street, Tom Mc Ellistrim, later recalled “we lifted our gun’s to fire. We were not ten yard’s from them. We took aim and fired”.

Saoradh salutes the revolutionary spirit shown on the street’s of Tralee a hundred year’s ago today.

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