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Centenary of Denis Barry Remembered

Writes JJ Hurley

One of the final dramas of the centenary of Irish history was commemorated in Riverstick, Co Cork, on November 18th and 19th as the late Denis Barry was honoured in the South County village.

Born in Riverstick in 1883, Barry was a notable hurler. He lined out with his local team, Ballymartle and later, with Blackrock, featuring with them in the 1912 All-Ireland Final. Barry's other activities included his membership of the Gaelic League, Irish Volunteers and an active member of the Drapers Trade Union.

Arrested in Kilkenny following the 1916 Rising, he was interred In Frongoch internment camp in Wales. Later, he returned to Ireland and played a vital role in the Republican Police in Cork City.

Arrested during the Civil War, he joined a mass hunger strike in October 1923 in protest against the imprisonment without trial or charge of the internees, despite the Civil War having ended five months previously.

Ballymartle GAA in action against Blackrock wearing their special commemoration kit to honour Denis Barry who died on hunger strike 100 years ago. Picture. John Allen

He died on November 20th 1923, at the Curragh Camp, and initially, the Free State Government refused to return his remains to the family. However, the intervention of Tom Johnson of the Labour Party, along with his party colleague for West Cork, Timothy Murphy, and a High Court action forced the State to relent.

Returning to Cork, the then Bishop of Cork, Daniel Cohalan, refused to allow either his body into a church or the clergy to attend his funeral.

In the neighbouring Diocese of Cloyne, on the same date, another hunger striker, Andy O'Sullivan, was afforded the church's funeral services.

He was laid to rest in the Republican Plot In St Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork, next to the former Lord Mayor's Terence MacSwiney and Tomas McCurtain, with Maire MacSwiney and David Kent officiating at the graveside.

Cllr Alan Coleman, who is part of a local organising committee, said, 'It is important to recognise the role Denis Barry played. Indeed, his role was only recently acknowledged by the State when he was awarded his War of Independence medals in 2009.'

'Outside his contribution to our Independence, Denis had a great love for the Irish language and was an outstanding hurler and part of the famed Rockies team that won four consecutive county titles.'

In recognition of this association, Blackrock play Ballymartle in a challenge game following the unveiling of a new information board on Barry's life story and an oration from Professor Gabriel Doherty UCC on Sunday, November 19th in Riverstick.

Historian Gabriel Doherty from UCC gives an oration at a ceremony in Riverstick, Co. Cork unveiling an information plaque to Denis Barry who died on hunger strike 100 years ago. Picture. John Allen

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