Garry Holohan and MacNeill’s countermanding order in 1916

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Gearoid Ua h-Uallachain (Garry Holohan), Na Fianna Eireann National Deputy Director of Equipment, and also O/C of No.5 Coy Dublin Brigade Fianna (Merchant’s Quay) in 1916.

When Eoin MacNeill discovered that a group within the Irish Volunteers organisation had secret plans to launch an armed rebellion against British Rule, and after receiving news of Roger Casement’s failed attempt to import arms from Germany, he tried to prevent the planned mobilization for Easter Sunday. He hand-wrote several copies of a countermanding order, on headed notepaper at his home – Woodbrook, in Rathfarnham, Co Dublin – and dispatched men to deliver copies to local commanders nationwide. The countermanding order also appeared in the Sunday Independent on April 23rd, the day of the planned Rising. The countermand was only partly successful and caused confusion, especially outside Dublin.


In the following account, Senior Fianna officer Garry Holohan recalls the confusion caused by Eoin MacNeill’s countermanding order:

 “The following morning, Easter Sunday [April 24th], I got up and went to nine o’clock Mass at Haddington Road and received Holy Communion. I then heard the news about MacNeill [and the countermanding order] and hurried back to Eamon to discuss the situation. He decided I should go at once to Hardwicke Street and find out how things stood. When I knocked at the door one of the Tobins opened it; he was in a state of hysteria and started to talk about all the trouble that had been brought on us. I asked him where were the leaders, and he told me they were at Liberty Hall.

 I rode down O’Connell Street and along Eden Quay where I met Nora and Ina Connolly. I asked them was everything over and they said the leaders were inside. I went up the main staircase in Liberty Hall, and as I reached the top of the stairs I saw Pádraig Pearse and Sean McDermott coming along the passage on my right-hand side from the large front room. I immediately asked Sean what was the position and he told me that everything was postponed for twenty-four hours and gave me a dispatch for the officer in charge of Father Mathew Park.

I was to come back and take a message to Wexford, but I told him I would have to go to Phoenix Park first to tell Molly Byrne to go home, as she was watching the Magazine Fort in order to obtain immediate information if there was any unusual activity or precautions being taken by the guard.

I went to Father Mathew Park, and on my way met a carpenter named Jim Hunter at the junction of Seville Place and Amiens Street. Jim worked with me on the Dublin Port and Docks Board and was an old I.R.B. man who left the time of the split. He had promised to take part in the attack on the Magazine Fort, so I told him everything was off for the present.

I then went back to Liberty Hall and on my way I met my aunt and uncle at O’Connell Bridge. When I got to Liberty Hail I found the leaders gone and the Citizen Army were just going out for a march round the city; that was about six o’clock. I met Eamon Martin and some of the men who were to take part in the Magazine Fort attack, and we decided to meet again at No. 8 Rutland Cottages at 8 p.m. to renew our arrangements. We held a meeting and it was decided to meet next morning at my house at 12 o’clock. Eamon Martin, my brother Pat and I slept at No. 8 Rutland Cottages, Lower Rutland Street.”


Photograph courtesy of Eamon Murphy and the Eamon Martin Collection.

Garry Holohan’s account from his Bureau of Military Witness Statement No. 328

2 responses to “Garry Holohan and MacNeill’s countermanding order in 1916

  • Paula Dunne

    It is so emotional to read this post. Molly Byrne was my grandmother who later married Denis Neary, who fought under the command of Ned Daly in the Four Courts. Remembering with pride


  • Colm Dunne

    The surviving son of Denis (Dinny) and Mollie was Frank Neary (b. 1926) who attended the Easter commerations this year but died peacefully on 15 August 2016. RIP


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