Tadhg Barry (1880-1921), the Cork Republican Socialist, has been a largely forgotten figure of Irish History. Barry was a Trade unionist, IRA volunteer, IRB man, member of the GAA, Gaelic League, AOH and the Cork Volunteer Pipe Band. Barry shared the politics of James Connolly, the politics of workers struggle and the fight against Capitalism and Imperialism, writes MARY ROSE McCARTHY
Tadhg Barry was born in Cork in 1880, on Blarney Street, one of the longest streets in the city. As his father was a cooper the family was able to afford education for their son, first at the local primary school, then secondary education at the North Monastery.
He grew up at time of turmoil in Ireland and across Europe. The fight for Home Rule in Ireland gained strength to the extent, that in Ulster, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was established in order to defend the territory against the perceived threat that Home Rule would mean Rule from Rome. The UVF were supported by some wealthy land owners so in position to be well trained and equipped.
In response, the South of Ireland perceived their need for a force to fight the Ulster Volunteers. This led to the setting up of the Irish Volunteers. The Cork Corps of the Irish volunteers was established in 1913 with Tadhg Barry as a founding member.
When the First World War broke out in 1914, John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Volunteers, encouraged all Irish volunteers to fight on the side of the English army in the genuine belief that if they supported England, Home Rule would be granted when the war was over.
No one at that time envisaged a four year long mud-bath on the plains of Europe. Redmond’s support of the British led the Irish Volunteers to split. Tadhg Barry and others opposed Irish involvement in England’s battles. This group eventually became the core of the 1916 uprising and the subsequent War of Independence.
When the Cork Corps was formed, the volunteers had to buy their own uniforms and weapons. Newspapers ran advertisements from shops selling uniforms. As well as paying their own subscription fees, the Volunteers canvassed locally for financial support. In the beginning, they were often portrayed as a vehicle of fun playing at toy soldiers while ‘real men’ were fighting in the trenches of Europe in a battle to defeat evil.
As the First World War dragged on the fear of conscription became very real prompting more people to join the Irish Volunteers. Their aim was to achieve a united Ireland but a secret plan to land arms in Kerry in support of that struggle never came to fruition.
Barry, along with other Cork figures such as Terence MacSwiney and Tomás MacCurtain, was a key part of this Irish-Ireland struggle. He played a role in the administration, drilling and training of the Irish Volunteers.