Claims of cover-up over death of Patrick Mulrennan in Custume Barracks

His brother Seamus was killed weeks earlier

Civil War in Roscommon 100 years ago

This Saturday, November 5th 2022 marks the centenary of the death of Patrick Mulrennan, Lisacul, Co. Roscommon during the Civil War. Patrick Mulrennan and his brother Seamus died within weeks of each other in the conflict during October and November 1922.

The cause of the death of Patrick Mulrennan, which occurred at the Curragh Military Hospital, is surrounded in ambiguity and misinformation. The official report on his death – by shooting in Custume Barracks Athlone – was that he had been involved in a mutiny by other prisoners during a hunger strike at the prison. The report by Free State authorities claimed that warning shots had been fired over the heads of prisoners during a riot and that a bullet had hit Mulrennan, that the wound proved fatal and he died later on November 5th 1922.

Other witnesses of the shooting said there had been no hunger strike, mutiny or unrest at the prison when Mulrennan was shot. Nearly 100 prisoners, present when the shooting took place, stated that Patrick Mulrennan was seated in the compound reading a book, when a Free State officer called Anthony T. Lawlor took a shot at him. The bullet missed the prisoner and Lawlor’s senior officer in the prison, Sean McKeon remarked: “You have a bad shot Tony”. Lawlor is believed to have said: “I won’t miss this time”, and fired again at Mulrennan, fatally wounding him. The wounded prisoner was moved to the hospital wing and he died there later.

The death of Mulrennan was brought up in the Dáil years after by Dr. Patrick O’Dowd TD, when he questioned the Government as to why there had never been an inquest into the fatal shooting of Patrick Mulrennan. Even after a lapse of six years, the Mulrennan inquest, which had been repeatedly adjourned, had not taken place, leading to the belief that there had been some sort of cover-up. The true story of Mulrennan’s shooting has never been made public.

The death of Patrick Mulrennan was the second tragedy to befall the family, as Patrick’s brother, Seamus had been killed in an encounter with Free State soldiers in Derranacarthy, between Ballaghaderreen and Charlestown on October 14th 1922. Both brothers had been members of the 1st Battn. (Castlerea) South Roscommon Brigade and had been active in the War of Independence. The Mulrennan brothers are interred in Cuiltyboe Cemetery, Loughglynn.

On November 4th 1922, the day before the death of Patrick Mulrennan, an occurrence in the town of Moate, Co. Westmeath claimed the life of another republican from Roscommon. Christopher ‘Kit’ McKeon, from Bogganafin, Athlone, on the Roscommon side of the Shannon, was involved in an altercation with a Free State soldier who was attempting to arrest him. A gun was discharged wounding McKeon. He died on the street later.

Christopher McKeon was a veteran of the Great War. When he returned from the war he was instrumental in organising the IRA around Athlone, setting up the Summerhill Company, which became part of the 1st Battn. Athlone Brigade. McKeon later became a member of the Athlone Flying Column, which was led by his close friend and comrade, James Tormey of Moate.

Opposing the Treaty settlement, he took the Republican position and later became Commandant of the anti-treaty IRA forces in Athlone. Christopher McKeon was 26-years-old when he was killed; he is buried in Cornamagh Cemetery, Athlone.


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An Staraí Áitiuil (The Local Historian)