By Eamonn Duggan
During 1919, the republican movement saw the emergence of four IRA Volunteers in South Tipperary all of whom went on to make significant contributions to the fight for Ireland’s independence. Collectively they were known as the ‘Big Four’ by their friends and colleagues and their daring and often reckless deeds became legendary during the War of Independence.
This second part of the series on the ‘Big Four’ deals with Seán Treacy who led an extraordinary life and gave it up for the cause of independence in a violent shoot-out on Dublin’s Talbot Street in 1920.
Seán Treacy was born on 14 February 1895 in Soloheadbeg, County Tipperary, into a farming family. He left school at fourteen years old to work full time in farming, developing an interest in new methods of working the land.
He also found time to immerse himself in the republican ideal and developed a keen sense of patriotism. He joined the Gaelic League and enrolled in the Irish Volunteers in 1913. He became known to the authorities and was picked up by them in the aftermath of the Easter Rising in 1916.
Treacy spent a lot of time over the following two years in and out of prison and went on hunger strike on a couple of occasions during that time. By 1918 he had become very radicalised and during the year wrote to his comrades and friends in Tipperary urging them to “Deport all in favour of the enemy out of the country. Deal sternly with those who try to resist. Maintain the strict discipline, there must be no running to kiss mothers goodbye.”
Treacy was appointed Vice Officer-Commanding of the Volunteers Third Tipperary Brigade in 1918 and quickly made it clear that he wanted to see action taken against British forces in Ireland – as well as anyone else deemed by him to be supportive of the regime controlling the country at that time.