On 9 June 1923, the newspaper ÉIRE THE IRISH NATION published a letter from an unnamed Buncrana lady who complained bitterly about conditions in Mountjoy jail, Dublin. The banner headline ran BRUTALITY TO WOMEN IN BUNCRANA.
Her jailers were not British soldiers but officers of the newly-established Irish Free State, (referred to as Staters who were pro-Treaty) in the final days of the Civil War. At the time of writing, her parents lived in Buncrana but she had been released and was living in the town. Below, some extracts are quoted:
I have no longer permission to get letters or parcels or newspapers. This right was denied me because I accused the Staters of the murder of poor Charlie Daly and his comrades. Times have changed for the worse in the last fortnight. We have been changed to other quarters – a terrible place. We sent up a protest against having to lie on planks only six inches off the cement floor. Instead our protest went unheeded. Fifty Slavers were marched up and took positions outside our cells, which were barricaded. We delivered a free address, accusing them of being guilty of the murder of Charlie Daly for the sake of a miserable pittance a week and called on them to leave off their English uniforms. After a while, my cell door was burst in. Four Creeslough girls and myself were attacked and dragged unmercifully out. I was last. The Staters were angry at hearing the bitter truth…..Well I got badly beaten. We were slammed into the place and given wet bed clothing………
Other letters support her story. Similar conditions obtained in Kilmainham jail. Names are not given but there are references to a Miss MacDermott and a Mrs. Barrett in related letters. The lady who wrote the letter above may have been a member of Cumann na mBan in Buncrana but she may have joined in another town. Any help in identifying the lady would be welcome. She belonged to an anti-Treaty family.
Seán Beattie 31/12/2016