Michael Dwyer recalls the assassination of Kevin O’Higgins ninety years ago this month, on July 10th, 1927.
Relative normality had returned to Ireland after the Civil War. The Cumann na nGaedheal party had just got a small majority in the June election of 1927. The rule of law had been restored. Unarmed Gardaí policed the land. The courts functioned again, and the Army was reshaped. Most credit for this state of affairs was due to Kevin O’Higgins, then Minister for Justice and External Affairs.
On 10th July, a warm Sunday morning, O’Higgins was walking briskly along Cross Avenue to 12 o’clock Mass in Booterstown, Dublin, He had sent his police guard back to nearby Blackrock for cigarettes.
Unknown to him a car, stolen in the city the previous night, had halted above the junction of Cross and Booterstown Avenues. Three gunmen waited. They fired as he turned into Booterstown Avenue.
The bullets did not bring him down immediately. O’Higgins staggered across the avenue before collapsing on the footpath beside a lamp post. All three assumed he was dead and turned to flee. O’Higgins raised a hand and the three ran back and finished him with a shot each in the head, near the heart and the abdomen respectively. The car was later abandoned in Milltown and the assassins never apprehended.
He was conscious, but hemorrhaging and in shock when Eoin McNeill, his former colleague in government, came upon him by chance.
O‘Higgins mouthed the prayers of childhood as McNeill knelt beside the mortally wounded man. He expressed forgiveness for his enemies and ‘eternal love for his wife’.