The Skerries Historical Society presentation this month, by Gerard Shannon, tackled ‘The Bombing of Skerries Civic Guard Barracks during the Civil War, 11 February 1923’ and was given 97 years to the day after the bombing took place.
Fingal, and Skerries in particular, was more fortunate than many parts of the country during the Civil War although it did not completely escape the shadow of strife – the shooting of Harry Boland during his arrest in The Grand Hotel, in July 1922, is probably the most famous Civil War event to occur in Skerries and is certainly the most poignant with Boland’s former great friend, Michael Collins, ordering his arrest.
It was some six months later that members of an anti-Treaty IRA brigade blew up the former RIC barracks on Strand Street, then occupied by the Civic Guard. This new body had been formed in February 1922 under the auspices of Michael Collins to replace the RIC which, so long associated with British rule, did not have the support of the people.
It is clear that the anti-Treaty men wanted to make a point but had no desire to take Irish lives. About thirty of them arrived in motor cars in the early hours of 11 February 1923 and, after forcing the guards out of the barracks at gunpoint, placed a mine under the stairs, retired to a safe distance, and set it off.
The raiders knew what they were doing. While the building was a complete wreck, no one suffered any injuries and surrounding buildings suffered very little damage although local newspaper reports noted that ‘the force of the blast shattered windows throughout the town’. The seven guards were forced to move down the road to The Grand Hotel until other quarters could be found for them.
Locals must have been grateful that there was no loss of life or limb but there was certainly loss of property as the ten compensation claims testify to. Most of the claims were for those shattered windows but there were two more complicated ones.
Lina Cooper was in the process of buying a house from Annette Thornhill. She had paid £100 deposit and had already paid out money for repairs to a property in Little Strand Street, behind the barracks, which she intended to let out to summer visitors. Furniture she had already moved in to the house was damaged beyond repair but, although she was compensated to the tune of £45 for the structural damage, she got nothing for the furniture or the loss of revenue for that summer of 1923 when the house could not be let out. She also had to wait five years before she got anything at all.
The other major compensation claim was from Annette Thornhill who actually owned the barracks – the Civic Guard only rented them. The building was restored to its former glory for the then fabulous sum of £1440, and eventually sold, after some wrangling, to what had by then become An Garda Síochána.