‘Local hero’ awarded service medal 99 years after his death

‘Local hero’ awarded service medal 99 years after his death
Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Mick Finn presenting a 1917-1921 service medal posthumously to the family of Joseph Murphy who died on hunger strike in Cork jail, at City Hall. Included are Henry Delaney, nephew of Joseph, Shirley Kelleher, Miriam McCullagh and Goretti O'Donoghue, all grand-nieces of Joseph, grand-nephews Henry and Alphonsus Delaney and Donnchadh O Laoghaire TD, second left.Picture: David Keane.

NEARLY a century after his death, Joe Murphy was finally honoured with an official service medal at a special ceremony in City Hall last night.

Mr Murphy was an IRA soldier who was arrested for being in possession of a bomb in July 1920 and imprisoned in Cork Gaol.

During this time IRA prisoners had their political status removed, which led to a mass hunger strike.

Mr Murphy was on hunger strike for 76 days before dying at the age of 25 on October 25, 1920.

His death was somewhat overshadowed because just hours earlier, Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney, had also died.

He was on hunger strike in Brixton Prison at the time and his death was the focus of worldwide attention.

Lord Mayor of Cork Councillor Mick Finn said it was about time the ‘local hero’ was finally recognised.

“Young Joe Murphy is almost a forgotten local hero of the war for Irish freedom and independence,” said Mr Finn.

“Many of us in the Ballyphehane area are constantly reminded of him as his name is forever etched on the streetscape of the city, but his death on hunger strike only hours after the passing of Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney was largely overshadowed by the death of Cork’s First Citizen.

“That he is finally being rewarded with an official service medal of honour is just and right and credit to his family for pursuing it for almost a century.

Family member Henry Delaney, nephew of Joseph, with the 1917-1921 service medal presented posthumously to Joseph Murphy who died on hunger strike in Cork jail, at City Hall.Picture: David Keane.
Family member Henry Delaney, nephew of Joseph, with the 1917-1921 service medal presented posthumously to Joseph Murphy who died on hunger strike in Cork jail, at City Hall.Picture: David Keane.

“It means his memory and place in history will live on even more.”

Collecting the award on Joe’s behalf were members of his family, who have long campaigned to get their ancestor the recognition he deserved.

Shirley Kelleher, who is Joe’s grandniece, spoke of how delighted she is to see the city finally recognise him.

“I am so proud, delighted that after all these years that Joe Murphy, a local hero, is now being recognised on a national scale.

“He was an ordinary man who made an extraordinary sacrifice that we continue to honour and celebrate.”

The service was attended by members of the Department of Defence and the Military who came to honour the soldier for his dedication in Ireland’s fight for independence.

The award was granted by minister of defence Paul Kehoe who spoke of his delight in honouring Mr Murphy: “I am pleased to be able to posthumously award the Service (1917-1921) Medal with Bar to the late Joe Murphy in respect of his service during the War of Independence, some 99 years after his death on 25th October, 1920.

“I would like to thank the Lord Mayor, Councillor Mick Finn for presenting this medal on my behalf and for hosting a special event for the members of the extended Murphy family, in particular, Mr Henry Delaney (nephew of Joe Murphy) and his daughter Shirley Kelleher.”

Mr Murphy was born in Boston before he and his family returned to Cork, living on Pouladuff Road in Ballyphehane. He became a volunteer in 1917.

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